THE COOKERS / The Cookers Mixtape
The Cookers are trumpeters Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard. They often played with a ferocious and furious onslaught of notes as if their brass instruments were AK-47s and their notes of choice were high caliber, hollow-tipped projectiles. But both were equally capable of delivering warm and tender ballads that could melt hearts that had been steeled by disappointments and betrayals. These were the quintessential post-bop trumpet men of jazz. Somehow, I always thought the older of the duo was the younger, perhaps because Lee Morgan got the earlier start as the mentee of the master Dizzy Gillespie and was recording while still a teenager, Lee seemed like the elder voice of the young duo but actually Freddie Hubbard was older and would go on to have the longest career of most of his peers from the sixties. Philadelphia born Lee Morgan (July 10, 1938) spent nearly two years as a member of the Dizzy Gilespie big band and began recording for Blue Note Records in 1956 when Lee was only eighteen years old. Among his many Blue Note recordings as both a leader and a sideman, his appearance on Coltrane’s immortal Blue Train album is a noteworthy high point for a career that included over 25 albums as a leader and easily quadruple that number as a sideman. From 1958 to 1961 Lee Morgan held down the trumpet chair with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, which was one of the most high profile jazz bands of the post bop era. In 1963 he recorded his greatest commercial success with the Sidewinder album and the feature track of the same name. Although Blue Note pushed him to record more boogaloo-oriented jazz albums, Lee Morgan was a serious musician who was also socially aware and in 1964 produced Search for the New Land, and album that was both a critical and commercial success. Then in the seventies the debate about who was the better trumpeter ended when Lee Morgan was murdered by his common-law wife on February 19, 1972 during a gig at Slugs’, a jazz club on New York’s Lower East Side. From the early sixties until his untimely death, Lee Morgan was second only to Miles Davis as a trumpeter and recording artist. The two Lee Morgan tracks included on The Cookers Mixtape are the aforementioned “Sidewinder” and “Nommo,” a nearly twenty-minute workout composed by bassist Jymie Merritt (a fellow alum of the Jazz Messengers) and available on Lee Morgan’s highly regarded live recording, Live at the Lighthouse (July 1970). Freddie Hubbard was born April 7, 1938 in Indianapolis, Indiana. After becoming a sensation in his home town, Freddie moved to New York in 1958 at the age of 20—by that time Lee Morgan was already well into his recording career and Lee also was an influence on Freddie. The early sixties were a magical time for Freddie who was able to play in any style with confidence and verve. In 1960 he was recruited for Ornette Coleman’s iconoclastic Free Jazz recording session. In 1961 Hubbard joined Coltrane on two important albums, Olé and Africa/Brass. Also in 1961 Freddie was the brass voice on Oliver Nelson’s outstanding The Blues and the Abstract Truth album. Additionally, 1961 was when Freddie Hubbard followed Lee Morgan in the Art Blakey Jazz Messengers band. Throughout the sixties, Freddie’s reach was incredibly broad and adventurous including statements on John Coltrane’s daunting Ascension (1965) album and Sonny Rollins free-bop workout know as East Broadway Rundown (1966). And then there is the quintessential Herbie Hancock Maiden Voyage (1965) that cemented a long running partnership with Herbie Hancock that eventually included at least five albums with Hancock’s VSOP Quintet. Freddie turned toward commercially-oriented recordings. Hubbard kicked off the seventies with a rousing success with the album Red Clay (1970) and eventually won a Grammy for his 1971 album First Light. By 1975 Hubbard was on Columbia Records and seemed to be headed for fusion land, except where Miles chose rock influences, Hubbard leaned toward R&B. Hubbard recorded frequently until he was temporarily silenced by an infected, split lip which took a number of years to heal well enough for him to continue his career as a trumpeter. Freddie died November 26, 2008. Both of these trumpeters made bold, brassy statements full of bravura and intensity, and nowhere is the fire encouraged to burn more brightly than on a Freddie Hubbard album, Night of the Cookers, on which Lee Morgan sat in on the Claire Fischer composition “Pensativa.” Even though it was a lilting bossa nova, by the end of the duel, both trumpeters are throwing down in a take-no-prisoners sonic duel. Morgan solos first in a muted passage that pays tribute to Morgan’s former boss Dizzy Gillespie, but once past the opening solos and they begin trading fours, both men play open horn with no restraint. This is a famous session, renown in jazz circles. Indeed we have featured it before on BoL. This time however, we foreground the two trumpeters so that many of our younger fans can fully appreciate the magnificence of their trumpet battle royale. To paraphrase what I wrote back on January 28, 2008, if asked to select who is the better of the two, I would have to say they both are! We are fortunate to be able to hear them together at the height of their powers. Isn’t it truly a blessing to be able to listen to and be invigorated by music of this caliber? Give thanks for the twin titans of jazz trumpet who graced us with sterling and often startling music, music that makes your arm hairs rise up and your big toe go rigid following the twists, turns, elaborations, and sonic arabesques. Man, this is jazz. —Kalamu ya Salaam The Cookers Mixtape Playlist 01 “The Sidewinder” – The Sidewinder – Lee Morgan 02 “Nommo” – Live At The Lighthouse – Lee Morgan 03 “Red Clay” – Red Clay – Freddie Hubbard 04 “First Light” – First Light – Freddie Hubbard 05 “Pensativa” – The Night Of The Cookers – Freddie Hubbard
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