Blue Note, 1964
REVIEW BY: Peter Vissers
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/02/2009
Trumpet virtuoso Lee Morgan didn’t live a long life. His girlfriend shot him at the young age of 33. In his short life, Lee Morgan did do a lot of recording, both leading and as a sideman. The Sidewinder was perhaps his biggest commercial success. The title track was such a chart-buster that it got featured in Chrysler car commercials. Nowadays that wouldn’t be very special, but a jazz song entering the Billboard Top 100 and being used in commercials in 1964 was quite an achievement.
It isn’t hard to tell why “The Sidewinder” was such a hit. The track is catchy like a virus. Morgan draws a lot of the attention to himself (whether on purpose or not), but the interplay between the musicians is absolutely brilliant. Drummer Billy Higgins and pianist Barry Harris give the track a slight Latin feel. Tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson plays remarkably well on “The Sidewinder,” but is eventually overshadowed when Morgan’s amazing solo kicks in. Pianist Barry Harris has a more important role in album’s second track, but also has a noteworthy solo on the aforementioned title cut. “The Sidewinder” is an amazing tune which, quite understandably, became a jazz standard.
The second track, “Totem Pole,” features some of the best solos I’ve ever heard on a jazz record. Listen to Henderson’s soloing on this song and you know what I’m talking about. On “Gary’s Notebook,” the interplay between Morgan and Henderson is again astonishing. Though “Gary’s Notebook” is a bit more sophisticated than “The Sidewinder,” it’s just as catchy!
These three tracks make The Sidewinder one of my favorite jazz records. If you think you don’t like jazz, please give this disc a try! It might just be the cure. If you like jazz but have never heard The Sidewinder, buy it right now because you’re really missing something.