The Complete Mercury Max Roach Plus Four Sessions & The Complete Vee Jay Lee Morgan—Wayne Shorter Sessions by Zoë Anglesey

Part of the Editor's Choice series.

BOMB 75 Spring 2001
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The Complete Mercury Max Roach Plus Four Sessions comprises seven hours and 95 tracks, while The Complete Vee Jay Lee Morgan-Wayne Shorter Sessions racks up 77 cuts for six hours of dream jazz. I say “dream” because hard bop innovators Max Roach, Lee Morgan, and Wayne Shorter, including their stellar cohorts, play graced with a sense of tasteful competition and concern for adulterated perfection. This adds up to art; art takes time to present and here it is. These two Mosaic box sets in limited editions of 5,000 copies for true connoisseurs of jazz place listeners inside the recording studio as never before. Most references don’t even mention Wayne Shorter’s first sign-on as leader: his contribution is too superb for continued obscurity. A pre-Motown record label, Vee Jay of Chicago was the first African-American owned company to take markets and distribution seriously. In 1959 Vee Jay pulled in trumpeter Lee Morgan, 21, and Wayne Shorter, then NYU grad just out of the army, both newly enrolled in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. The Vee Jay sessions include “The Young Lions”, “Here’s Lee Morgan,” “Expoobident,” “Introducing Wayne Shorter,” “Second Genesis,” and “Wayning Moments.” All cuts are sequenced in correct chronological order and restore six previously unissued tracks. Francis Wolff, Chuck Stewart, and Ted Williams capture the moods in art photos—how sharp the vines, Blakey sitting next to baby Cedar Walton, Wayne composing, revising between tracks. The music is glorious—all of it. The Complete Mercury Max Roach Plus Four Sessions start in New York in 1956, just three months after the tragic deaths of Roach’s band mates Clifford Brown and Richie Powell, and end in Paris several years later. The four are the unsung Kenny Dorham, Sonny Rollins (whose lyrical breathy blowing is just too fine), Ray Bryant and George Morrow. In 1958, Roach pulled in Memphis greats Booker Little, George Coleman, the Turrentine Brothers and Julian Priester. Noticeably, the Max Roach drum solos swell as voluminous miracles in velocity or finely drawn minimalist studies in sonic dynamics.

The Complete Mercury Max Roach Plus Four Sessions and The Complete Vee Jay Lee Morgan-Wayne Shorter Sessions were both released in 2000 by Mosaic Records.

Black, Feminist, Spiritual, and Alive: Cauleen Smith’s Give It or Leave It by Jareh Das
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Cauleen Smith tangles the past with figures from African American histories, Afrofuturism, Radical Jazz, and alternative futures.

“A Near-Tragic, Near-Comic Lyricism”: Jamar Roberts Interviewed by Monica Uszerowicz
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Alvin Ailey’s Jamar Roberts on pain, joy, and choreographing to John Coltrane.

William T. Williams by Mona Hadler
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“I didn’t want to paint figuratively. I didn’t want something that was overtly referencing the social issues around me, but I wanted to find a way to describe them. How do you internalize this? How do you make a form that forces a painting to be an experience that is not necessarily easy to see, handle, or look at?”

Originally published in

BOMB 75, Spring 2001

Featuring interviews with Wendy Wasserstein, Wong Kar-Wai, Amos Gitai, Eduardo Galeano, Tobias Schneebaum, Micheal Goldberg, Samuel Mockbee, Andrea Zittel. 

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