Lee Morgan’s ‘Taru’ first recorded in 1968, but shamefully unreleased until 1980, and then even only fleetingly available, is often referred to by many as a ‘transitional’ recording, which actually does much to under-value this in-fact exquisite and under-appreciated album. True, Morgan is here moving away from his more traditional hard bop to take in some modal ideas, but also some subtle early fusion elements. Leading a sextet, he is ably supported throughout, most notably by Bennie Maupin’s tenor sax and George Benson’s unmistakable guitar, and together they take on an interesting mix of skillful covers, well-crafted and complex originals, boogaloos and modal jazz.
‘Avotcja One’ leads with some funky moves, courtesy of John Hicks, whose piano here is tastefully understated but perfectly atuned to the song, while Benson gets to shows some good chops. ‘Haeschen’ then takes things up a notch with a superb opening from Morgan and Maupin interwining with each other, before Morgan gets to solo dynamitely. There is not a single misstep here at all though, with only the title track (‘Taru, What’s Wrong With You’) slowing the pace for a moving ballad, before ‘Durem’ gets to close with some very fine impossible to dislike boogie, where in truth everyone shines.
One of Lee Morgans very best recordings, it’s instantly likeable and catchy, and ends all too soon. A good time album, it’s criminally one of Morgan’s lesser-known works, not helped by it’s often hard to track down nature. Now available, not like the rest of his considerable output on the Rudy Van Gelder issues, but instead on Blue Note’s Connesieur re-issues, it means it’s future is likely much the same as its past, and it’ll most probably become something of a rarity. Why it was held back from release originally is baffling, but anyone with even a minor interest in Morgan should track this down – you won’t be disappointed.