John Daversa Jazz Orchestra Featuring Justin Morell: All Without Words: Variations Inspired by Loren

Dan McClenaghan By

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John Daversa Jazz Orchestra Featuring Justin Morell: All Without Words: Variations Inspired by Loren
Trumpeter John Daversa takes the biggest artistic challenge of his career with All Without Words: Variations Inspired by Loren. It is a large scale orchestral piece—a "jazz with strings" affair if it needs a label—that goes well its seminal predecessors in the style, to wit a pair of Charlie Parker With Strings albums (both bearing the same title), initially released on EmArcy, and reissued together later on a CD compilation (plus extra tracks) in 1995 on Verve; and trumpeter Clifford Brown's Clifford Brown With Strings (EmArcy, 1955).

The Brown and Parker sets seemed an attempt at making "nice music" featuring mostly familiar popular tunes, spruced up and sweetened with strings to make the sound more palatable, perhaps, to those who might not dive into a small ensemble jazz recording by Parker with Dizzy Gillespie or Clifford Brown with Richie Powell and Max Roach. That is not a knock on the Parker and Brown "strings" albums; Parker's is excellent, essential even, while Brown's is very good. But in retrospect, it still feels like those early efforts lacked a bit of meat on the bones of the more modern recordings in the "with string" style, such as trumpeter Wallace Roney's Misteriosos (Warner Brother, 1994) and Bob Belden's Black Dahlia (Blue Note, 2001).

A big chunk of that meat on the bones on All Without Words: Variation Inspired By Loren comes from guitarist Justin Morell's concept and his compositions. Daversa started the ball rolling on the project when he asked Morell—his friend and longtime musical running mate—to write a large scale orchestral jazz piece. Morell came up with a paean to his nonverbal autistic son, Loren, a work that became a lush examination of the trials and tribulations— and the joys—of raising a special child.

Beyond the difficulties Justin Morell faced, what the music manifests, above all else—with its full orchestra of strings and woodwinds, percussion and a choir—is the pure and unconditional love that goes into challenges facing the caretaking involved with Loren.

The twelve tunes presented here are masterfully arranged. The orchestral setting never overpowers the message or sound, and Daversa's trumpet, out front, is soulful and empathic, serving as the narrator of Loren and Justin Morell's journey.

There have been great orchestral jazz albums in the past: Charlie Parker's early 1950s shot across the bow, of course, and the previously mentioned Wallace Roney and and Bob Belden discs; saxophonist Art Pepper's Winter Moon (Galaxy Records, 1981), alto saxophonist Paul Desmond's Desmond Blue (RCA Victor, 1962), and the Claus Ogerman/Michael Brecker collaboration Cityscape (Warner Brothers, 1982). All Without Words: Variations Inspired By Loren rises to that level of great artistry and beauty.

Track Listing

Loren's Theme; Searching But Never Finding; Two Steps Forward; Seeing It Again For The First Time; The Urgency Of Every Moment; Invisible Things; Walking In Our Own Footsteps/The Circle Game; The Smallest Thing; A Day Is Forever/Like Any Other; Three Roads Diverged; Learning What It Means To Be; It's Enough To Be Here, Now.


John Daversa: trumpet; Justin Morell: guitar; Tai Cohen: piano; Dion Kerr: bass; David Chiverton: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Scott Flavin, orchestra conductor; Amanda Quist, choir conductor; Abby Young, concertmaster. Conrad Fok: Piano; Lev Garfein: Violin; Strings: Violin I: Abby Young; Sheena Gutierrez; Karen Lord-Powell; Steffen Zeichner; Ashley Liberty; Gregory Carreno; Violin II: Svetlana Salminen; Yuhao Zhou; Orlando Forte; Katarina Nazarova; Julia Jakkel; Viola: Matt Nabours; Vishnu Ramankutty; Ross DeBardelaben; Cello: Brent Charran; Shea Kole; Tadao Ito; Bass: Brian Powell; Ethan Olaguibel; Winds: Jennifer Grim: flute; Alyssa Mena: flute, alto flute; Troy Roberts: soprano and tenor saxophone; Melvin Butler: soprano and tenor saxophone; Matt Clarke: clarinet; Frankie Capoferri: clarinet, bass clarinet; Gabriel Beavers: bassoon; Melanie Villarreal: bassoon; Richard Todd: horn; Stan Spinola: horn; Antoni Olesik: timpani, vibraphone, glockenspiel, marimba; Choir: Emily Finke: soprano; Safia Zaman: soprano; Alexandra Colaizzi: alto; Kate Reid: alto; Sidney O’Gorman: tenor; Noah Zaidspiner: tenor; Thandolwethu Mamba: bass; Dylan Melville: bass.

Album information

Title: All Without Words: Variations Inspired by Loren | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Tiger Turn

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