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Morning Light celebrates John Ellis' achievements as a composer as much as it does his artistry on trumpet and flugelhorn. His work commands and demands attention, filled with mysterious beauty and touches of the Spanish motif. Even the up tempo pieces are not there just to show the group can swing. They have structure and purpose. This play list of new Ellis material is modal in the sense that Miles Davis popularized this form with his "Milestones". Edward Simon's piano assumes the Red Garland role with his presence strong throughout. Given the amount of playing space he gets, at times one can forget this is Ellis' session.
Although one of the tunes is a tribute to Chet Baker, the influence of Davis permeates this album. Ellis uses a similar minimalist technique with lots of space between phrases, although not as pronounced as Davis. This influence is heard on "Bittersweet Horne" where Ellis picks up his flugelhorn and we hear snippets of measures similar to those on Davis' seminal Sketches of Spain.
In addition to the presence of Simon's piano, the modern tenor sax of Michael Brecker creates the mood implied by the title of the tunes he's on. On "So Much Sorrow" Brecker's tenor and Ellis' trumpet are brushes dipped into a pallette where a mixture of languor and melancholy are used to sketch a musical landscape. The heavy sonority of Gomez's bass contributes to the darkness of the picture. This is moving stuff. Gomez is joined by another venerable jazz man, Al Foster, who together form a rhythm whose role goes far beyond the mere keeping of time. Matters turn bright by a happy "Isla Verde (Green Island) "with Ellis playing a matador like trumpet in contrast to Chris Potter's probing, hard bop tenor.
This is Ellis' second album after a hiatus of 20 years from performing. He has returned with renewed creativity that has been poured into this album. Recommended.
Track Listing: Morning Light*%; So Much Sorrow*; Isla Verde (Green Island)#; Ballad for Chet (for Chet Baker)#; One Last Tune; Bittersweet Love#; Tout Droit (Straight Ahead)#; Blues Shuffle#; Darkness Falls#
Personnel: John Ellis - Trumpet/Flugelhorn; Edward Simon - Piano; Eddie Gomez - Bass; Al Foster - Drums; Michael Brecker*, Chris Potter# - Tenor Saxophone; Ron Reuben - Bass Clarinet%