Roberto Magris Quintet: Morgan Rewind: A Tribute to Lee Morgan, Vol. 1 (2011)
For one who left us far too soon (he was shot to death at age 33), Edward Lee Morgan left quite an extensive legacy as a trumpeter, composer and recording artist. In paying tribute to Morgan, pianist Roberto Magris has a splendid idea. What he does not have, of course, is Lee Morgan or any of the celebrated saxophonists who played alongside him (Hank Mobley, Benny Golson, Pepper Adams, Clifford Jordan, Wayne Shorter, Jackie McLean, Joe Henderson, to name only some).
Another Lee, the young trumpeter Brandon Lee, gives it his best shot sitting in for Morgan, while alto saxophonist Logan Richardson is somewhat less persuasive depping for the various reed men with whom Morgan played and recorded. To complete the rhythm section, Magris has recruited a talented young bassist, Elisa Pruett, and the veteran drummer Albert Heath who grew up alongside Morgan in Philadelphia (Tootie was three or four years older).
Six of the album's nine musical tracks (a tenth consists of a twelve-minute interview with Heath by producer Paul Collins) were written by Morgan. Magris contributed "Lee-Too" and "Lee Morganized," while saxophonist Billy Harper penned the virile opener, "Croquet Ballet." Morgan was a first-rate composer whose best-known work is the lovely "Ceora." That's here, accompanied by such other winners as "Party Time," "Desert Moonlight," "Hocus Pocus," "Eclipso" and "Mr. Kenyatta." Heath, sturdy throughout, is especially effective on the Caribbean-flavored "Eclipso" and Afro-style "Kenyatta."
Magris, a versatile pianist, seems right at home in the bop format and is at ease whether comping or soloing, which he does tastefully, while Lee frames a number of solos that easily could have met with Morgan's approval. Richardson, on the other hand, is more remindful of Eric Dolphy than the plain-spoken boppers who were most often at Morgan's side. That can be taken as a plus or a minus, depending on the listener's fondness for and devotion to the kind of blue-collar bop that epitomized the Blue Note / Prestige sessions of the late '50s and '60s that earned Morgan and others prominence and stardom.
Even though Magris has to make do for the most part with younger musicians whose awareness of that era rests largely on recorded evidence, everyone does his (and her) best to recreate and salute the time in which Morgan lived and flourished. Unrepentant boppers should find the sentiments and the music to their liking.
Track Listing: Croquet Ballet; Party Time; Desert Moonlight; Lee-Too; Ceora; Hocus Pocus; Eclipso; Mr. Kenyatta; Lee Morganized; Audio Liner Notes (interview with Tootie Heath).
Personnel: Roberto Magris: piano; Brandon Lee: trumpet; Logan Richardson: alto sax; Elisa Pruett: bass; Albert "Tootie" Heath: drums.