Vinyl Spotlight: Lee Morgan, The Cooker (Blue Note 1578) [Original Pressing]

  • Original 1957 mono pressing
  • West 63rd address on both labels without registered trademark “R”
  • Deep groove on both sides
  • Plastylite “P” etched and “RVG” stamped in dead wax

Personnel:

  • Lee Morgan, trumpet
  • Pepper Adams, baritone saxophone
  • Bobby Timmons, piano
  • Paul Chambers, bass
  • “Philly” Joe Jones, drums

Recorded September 29, 1957 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey
Originally released in November 1957

A while ago I happened upon the YouTube channel of “KoolKatJazz”, a collector who takes pride in finding cheap original pressings of vintage jazz records that, while perhaps grade VG or lower, sound great at times nonetheless. Being a collector on a pretty strict budget made me think that this might be a collecting strategy I could benefit from.

Then I came across this copy of The Cooker. It looked VG at best, and while I would normally pass on a record like this due to a personal intolerance of audible wear and loud pops and ticks, this time I had the opportunity to preview the playback before buying. Indeed, the record had its share of loud ticks and even a skip at one point, but no distortion, and at times the thing sounded undeniably brilliant. The price was more than fair so I decided to go for it.

Though I was originally under the impression that mono issues of this album are quite rare, collecting buddy Clifford Allen informed me that in addition to a West 63rd “R” repressing, mono pressings with New York USA and even United Artists “classic” labels exist. Shout out to Clifford for helping make this article more accurate!

Pepper Adams during the recording of The Cooker in 1957

I had never heard these sides before I found this copy. I’m not the biggest fan of the mega-standard “A Night in Tunisia” and accordingly was a little underwhelmed by this epic reading. But just as I began to fear that the date would ultimately amount to no more than “another bop blowing session”, Pepper Adams’ quirky presence grew on me, and I soon came to appreciate this pleasantly odd frontline pairing of trumpet and baritone sax. Prior to the release of The Cooker, Morgan had never laid to tape any of his own compositions, and thus with “Heavy Dipper” and “New Ma”, the world got its first glimpse of the leader’s talents as a songwriter. And most collectors will be able to appreciate the magic contained in these fresh 1957 mono Plastylite grooves.