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Delightfulee (1966)

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Joe Henderson

As Lee Morgan's career moved from hard and post-bop to soul-jazz, Delightfulee serves as a further bridge in a half-and-half fashion. Four of the seven cuts feature his potent quintet with a young and emerging tenor saxophonist, Joe Henderson, as his front line mate, McCoy Tyner ever brilliant on piano, and Billy Higgins firing up the rhythm as only the drummer could. The remainder of the date consists of tracks orchestrated by Oliver Nelson featuring an 11-piece ensemble. There are two selections that feature versions of compositions with both configurations. "Zambia" is a post-bop classic in Morgan's repertoire, sporting a memorable, concise, no-nonsense melody line punctuated by Tyner's piano chords, but in big-band style, it is full and rich, maybe too much so. The easy, deep waltz "Delightful Deggie," may benefit from the orchestration. Wayne Shorter is the featured tenor on the larger group tracks, while saxophonists Danny Bank and Phil Woods (both doubling on flute, a rarity for Woods),trombonist Tom McIntosh, tuba player Don Butterfield,and French Horn icon James Buffington supply the depth. The drummer for the big-and cuts is Philly Joe Jones, and again, is quite a contrast to the smoother Higgins. Of the small ensemble cuts, the fun calypso boogaloo "Ca-Lee-So" is a postscript for Morgan's big hit "The Sidewinder," recorded three years prior. Tyner strokes out kinetic forms during "Nite Flite," and dips into deep blues for "Deggie." Morgan and Henderson's solos are always spot on. The best big-band track, "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof, is extremely hip and features a relaxed Shorter, while the worst, a somber samba take on the Beatles' "Yesterday," seems a throwaway. For some this will always be an oddball release of Morgan's, but it does suggest moving on into what would be a fruitful and successful final five years. ~ Michael G. Nastos