Lee Morgan The Sidewinder (Blue Note) One of the finest and most forceful of the hard bop trumpeters, Lee Morgan played on many of the seminal sessions for the Blue Note label, and is one of the most prominent instrumental voices on several undisputed jazz classics. Morgan's horn can be heard on John Coltrane's Blue Train, Art Blakey's Moanin', and Jimmy Smith's The Sermon, to name but three, and between his 1956 debut and his tragic early death in 1972 he recorded almost 30 albums as a band leader, mostly for Blue Note. Ironically, the performance that came to define him for the rest of his career was a casual throwaway blues jam which he himself thought of as 'filler'. Artists are not always the best judges of their own work. The 10 minute 21 second title track of The Sidewinder boasts a powerful sense of swing, and one of the catchiest head themes of the era. The rhythm section never puts a foot wrong from the opening thud of Bob Cranshaw's bass, and he, drummer Billy Higgins and pianist Barry Harris lay down an irresistible groove. As for the horns, Morgan's classic solo is followed by another equally fine performance from Joe Henderson on tenor sax before Harris and Cranshaw's contributions round off the improvised section of the piece. The band return to the head, and the tune slithers away with a fade out on the bass. An edited version of The Sidewinder was a hit single, split over two sides of a 45, and was also picked up for a Chrysler TV commercial which broadened its exposure further, although Morgan had not sanctioned its use and it was eventually withdrawn. The success was a mixed blessing. Morgan (far right with John Coltrane) was forever typecast by the tune, and his gifts as a composer outside the formula were overshadowed. However, his genius for composition is evident in the other tracks on the album. Totem Pole, which bears a passing resemblance to On Green Dolphin Street, is in its way almost as good a blues tune as The Sidewinder, while Gary's Notebook and Boy, What a Night, which are also blues based, are by no means outclassed. Hocus Pocus features a more sophisticated set of changes and proves that as a composer Morgan was no one-trick pony. Unfortunately, being expected to recreate The Sidewinder every time he entered a recording studio was not the greatest of Morgan's problems. He struggled for much of his adult life with heroin addiction, which may have led indirectly to his sudden and violent death in a New York jazz club. Accounts of the incident differ, but according to one, Morgan had got into a dispute with a drug dealer and phoned his girlfriend asking her to bring him a gun. When she arrived at the club she found him with another woman and shot him in chest. He died in the ambulance at just 33 years of age.