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Marty Morell: A Leader at Last

By Published: February 16, 2006

AAJ: I have you listed as making your recording debut with trumpeter Henry "Red" Allen and Pee Wee Russell. Was traditional jazz a primary field early in your career, or were you already playing a number of styles?

MM: At the time that record was done I had been playing a lot with Steve Kuhn. The original idea for the record was to hire a young, more modern oriented rhythm section so, no that style was not something I was playing a lot. I've always played different styles of music.

I learned early on that this was an important part of surviving and building a future in the music business.

AAJ: How did you end up auditioning for Bill Evans?

MM: Working with the Bill Evans Trio was something that I had always wanted to do. After hearing Bill for the first time I fell in love with his music. I had never heard anything in jazz quite as beautiful until then. When the time presented it self and I had heard that Bill was auditioning drummers, I called Eddie then mustered up the courage and called Bill. He was really nice and asked me to come down to the Vanguard on Thursday night to play. I was elated. Having listened to Bill for the previous five years and being totally up on his repertoire I felt ready. It was one of the most exciting evenings of my life.

AAJ: Tell me what it was like working with him and Eddie Gomez (gigs, concerts, rehearsals). What prompted you to leave the group?

Bill Evans, Eddie Gomez, Marty Morell

MM: Well, I must say that working with Bill was the single most important and rewarding musical experience of my professional career. I feel blessed having had the opportunity to work with Bill and Eddie for all those years. For the time we were together Bill and Eddie were like my family and that was really something special. During performances on a good night with a great piano, great acoustics and audience it didn't and could never have gotten any better.

It was a very tough gig to leave, in fact, I was depressed for 6 months after leaving in '74, but I came to a point where I had to make a decision to explore other avenues in the music business and I had gotten a bit road weary as well. I had been on the road for the better part of ten years to that point and had reached the saturation point. I also wanted to have a family so in '74 my wife and I decided to settle in Toronto. I never looked back. The years in Canada were great.

AAJ: You've worked with a lot of fellow Canadians during your career, including Ed Bickert, Rob McConnell, Moe Koffman, Kenny Wheeler and Guido Basso, among others. Which of their recordings stand out in your view and what was it like working with each of them?

MM: Well, the names that you have mentioned are some of the finest players of all time. Lately I've been restoring and putting on CD some old cassette recordings I did of the Moe Koffman Quintet in the late 70's with Don Thompson, Ed Bickert and Rick Homme. The band rocks! Moe was a fantastic player and Ed Bickert was an incredible player and Don, well he is so talented it's silly. Too bad that Ed Bickert doesn't play any more. The recordings that I have are just fabulous.

Selected Discography

Marty Morell Jazz Quintet, Live (Datz It, 2005)
Various Artists, African Spirits: A Spiritual Jazz Journey (Soul Brother, 2005)
Canadian Brass, Seen and Heard (Philips, 2004)
Bill Evans, Half Moon Bay (Milestone, 1998)
Don Sebesky, I Remember Bill: Tribute to Bill Evans (RCA, 1998)
The Singers Unlimited, Magic Voices (Polygram, 1998)
Bill Evans, Piano Player (Columbia/Legacy, 1998)
Bill Evans, Secret Sessions (Milestone, 1996)
Bill Evans Trio and Stan Getz, But Beautiful (Milestone, 1996)
The Singers Unlimited, Masterpieces (MPS, 1994)
Bill Evans, Blue in Green (Milestone, 1991)
Bill Evans, Jazzhouse (Milestone, 1991)
Sammy Nestico, Night Flight (Sea Breeze, 1986)
Bill Evans, From the Seventies (Fantasy, 1983)
Rob McConnell & The Boss Brass, Present Perfect (Pausa, 1981)
Rob McConnell & The Boss Brass, Live in Digital (Sea Breeze, 1980)
Rob McConnell & The Boss Brass, Big Band Jazz (Umbrella, 1978)
Kenny Wheeler, 1976 (Just a Memory, 1976)
Jeremy Steig, Monium (Columbia, 1974)
Bill Evans, Re: Person I Knew (Original Jazz Classics, 1974)
Bill Evans Trio, Since We Met (Original Jazz Classics, 1974)
Bill Evans, The Tokyo Concert (Original Jazz Classics, 1973)
Bill Evans & George Russell Orchestra, Living Time (Columbia, 1972)
Bill Evans, The Bill Evans Album (Columbia, 1971)
Bill Evans, From Left to Right (MGM, 1970)
Bill Evans, Montreux II (CTI, 1970)
Gabor Szabo, Sorcerer (Impulse!, 1967)
Gabor Szabo, More Sorcery (Impulse!, 1967)
Steve Kuhn, October Suite: Three Compositions of Gary McFarland (Impulse!, 1966)

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Marty Morell

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