A chance to review a Larry Young re-issue was like a dream come true. I always try harder, sometimes too hard, when something like this comes my way, although most of the things that come through the letter box don't inspire the same kind of reverence.
Sadly, you're not likely to find it at your local record store any longer. This was s a limited edition Connoisseur Series release, and criminally it is now 'out of print'. Music like this should never be allowed to fade away, but isn't that one of the biggest predicaments facing jazz...?
BLUE NOTE RECORDS (92010 2)
Mother Ship; Street Scene; Visions; Trip Merchant; Love Drops.
Lee Morgan (t); Herbert Morgan (ts); Larry Young (org); Eddie Gladden (d).
Bridging the gap between jazz and the ‘new thing’, as well as playing a key role in developing a viable fusion of jazz and rock, Larry Young deserves a more prominent place in the pantheon of jazz greats. This long-awaited reissue, the last session he recorded for Blue Note, was puzzlingly held back from release until 1980.
His 1965 disc Unity, with the dream team of Joe Henderson and Woody Shaw, is quite probably my all-time favourite Blue Note release. Although often straining at the leash, Unity ultimately stays close to jazz conventions. By way of contrast, Mother Ship, deploying the same instrumentation, shows just how far the leader’s vision had developed in a short space of time.
Not only had Young moved the organ to new frontiers in the world of jazz, he’d also reached a rock crossover audience via his pivotal role in Tony Williams’ acclaimed group Lifetime. Every piece on Mother Ship could be the subject of an essay, from the fire-breathing title track to the spacey boogaloo of 'Street Scene’ and Young’s pulsing bass and swirling atonal clusters on ‘Trip Merchant’, they’re all gems.
A new darkness and intensity is apparent in Young’s sound post-Lifetime. Structures have become so loose as to offer wide open expanses for the soloists to roam freely. How then does that eternal Blue Note mainstay Lee Morgan fit into such a volatile brew? I’ve never gone along with the idea that Freddie Hubbard sounded out of his depth on avant-garde sessions, but with the exception of Grachan Moncur III’s Evolution the idea holds truer for Morgan. Perhaps the solo on the opener, where he seems to be looking for a non-existent straight line, explains why Mother Ship remained unreleased for so long? In his defence it must be said that rather than be defeated by the challenge he digs deep, and his solos on both ‘Trip Merchant’ and ‘Street Scene’ are truly magisterial.
Unrelated namesake Herbert Morgan, who along with Gladden appeared on several of Young’s still out-of-print Blue Notes, has a nicely burnished tone, combining the phrasing of Gene Ammons with the energy of late Coltrane. The precarious balance of stylistic approaches within the group is largely what makes Mother Ship so appealing, epitomising the pioneering spirit of those exciting times when anything seemed possible. A limited edition Connoisseur Series reissue, I therefore recommend a prompt visit to your local dealer to avoid disappointment!
(Jazz Review, January 2004)