LARRY YOUNG — Mothership (review)

LARRY YOUNG — Mothership album cover Album · 1980 · Post Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Steve Wyzard
TAKE A TRIP

"One thing about Larry Young is that he really is an organist. He knows that instrument, and furthermore, unlike some organ players in jazz, Larry never gets in your way. On the contrary, he keeps building in and around what you are doing while always listening so that his comping is always a great help." Mother Ship is a miraculous album, and due to its posthumous release has been continually underrated and underplayed. The above quote, from Grant Green (who does not play on Mother Ship) comes from this album's liner notes, which also take pains to portray Young as a Coltrane acolyte. That might be overselling the issue just a bit, but when you hear this album, you'll understand how the connection has been made.

Of course, the real problem with Mother Ship's reputation is that it will always live in the shadow of Young's Unity album, which the all-powerful consensus has determined is Larry's greatest. It's a real temptation to compare the two albums due to their common instrumentation: organ / trumpet / tenor sax / drums. Yet on Mother Ship, Lee Morgan's trumpet performance is much freer than anything else you've heard him play. Tenorist Herbert Morgan (no relation) and drummer Eddie Gladden are both compatriots of Young's from the Newark, NJ area. While far lesser-known than the legends who performed on Unity, both play up a storm on this album.

While a number of Blue Note's "LT-series" records are almost compilations of "odds and ends" from various sessions, Mother Ship is a full 41-minute album recorded in one day in 1969. The ground-breaking "Mother Ship", the bluesy riffing of "Street Scene", the 3-part long lines of "Visions", the epic (12:51) "Trip Merchant", and the sassy samba of "Love Drops" were all composed by Larry Young. If there's one extremely slight letdown to this album, it's the track sequencing. Whoever decided to follow up the boundary-pushing powerful chords and explosions of sound in "Trip Merchant" with the playful "Love Drops" was just being disrespectful. Wait until you hear Larry's and Lee's lengthy, mind-blowing solos on this track. Elsewhere Herbert Morgan may occasionally remind you of the one-and-only Wayne Shorter.

After Mother Ship, Young would leave Blue Note and go on to the Tony Williams Lifetime, the career move for which he's best-known today. Sadly, neither he nor Lee Morgan would live to see this album's release in 1980. While it's far less easy to find a copy of Mother Ship these days, I strongly urge anyone with an interest in Larry Young to pick this album up. The performances and compositions cry out for acclaim and deserve to be just as well-known as those on Unity.
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