Home » Jazz Articles » Justin Morell: Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra


Album Review

Justin Morell: Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra


Sign in to view read count
Justin Morell: Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra
Guitarist/composer Justin Morell has recorded six albums as a leader, and written several ensemble pieces that featured guitar parts. He found that he enjoyed exploring the guitar's capabilities, so the Concerto was created to focus on the guitar as solo instrument accompanied by a large ensemble in the classical concerto tradition. He joined with his lifelong friend John Daversa (director of the Frost Concert Jazz Band at the University of Miami) and recruited veteran jazz guitarist Adam Rogers to play the solo part, which requires the execution of intricate written passages as well as improvisation.

"Lost, Found and Lost" opens the piece with a slowly building rhythmic riff, preparing for the solo guitar entry: a fast snaking line establishes the solo role. Rogers engages in call and response with the winds almost immediately, which leads into the first cadenza. Dramatic eruptions from horns and rhythm section serve to push this section along—complete with a backbeat—building in intensity.

"Life and Times" is the slow movement. The lyrical opening for wind and brass chorale could easily fit into a symphonic work. Rogers introduces the lyrical theme with only light drum accompaniment before the winds rejoin. There is a lovely call and response section between his guitar and one of the tenor saxophonists (unfortunately uncredited). The movement ends with a meditative passage for unaccompanied guitar.

"Terraforming" brings things to a close with a relentless rhythm pattern in the guitar reminiscent of a minimalist like Philip Glass. It prompts a varied response from the orchestra, including horn stabs and a propulsive Brazilian-influenced rhythm from the whole band. After a burnout duet between Rogers and drummer Garrett Fracol the ensemble returns with overlapping riffs that concludes the entire performance with a punch.

A true musical fusion, Morell's concerto refers to the forms of the Classical and Romantic eras; the harmonic language of contemporary concert music; and jazz pieces presenting a soloist with a large ensemble, such as the great collaborations between arranger Gil Evans and trumpeter Miles Davis. Counterpoint and swing coexist here, with composition and improvisation often blending into each other with no clear dividing line. An ambitious work that should be of equal interest to listeners interested in large ensemble jazz or jazz guitar (Adam Rogers fans especially).

Track Listing

Lost, Found and Lost; Life and Times; Terraforming.


Justin Morell: composer and arranger; Adam Rogers: featured guest guitar solo artist; John Daversa: director and conductor; Tom Kelley: alto and soprano saxophone; Brian Bibb: alto saxophone and flute; Chris Thompson-Taylor: tenor saxophone and clarinet; Seth Crail: tenor saxophone and clarinet; Clint Bleil: baritone saxophone bass clarinet; Russell Macklem: trumpets/flugelhorns; Michael Dudley: trumpets/flugelhorns; Aaron Mutchler: trumpets/flugelhorns; Greg Chaimson: trumpets/flugelhorns; Derek Pyle: trombone; Will Wulfeck: trombone; Eli Feingold: trombone; Wesley Thompson: trombone; Jake Shapiro: piano; Josh Bermudez: guitar; Mackenzie Karbon: vibraphone and glockenspiel; Lowell Ringel: bass; Garrett Fracol: drums.

Album information

Title: Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: ArtistShare

Post a comment about this album

Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.



Open Spaces
Daniel Hersog Jazz Orchestra
The Magnificent
Brad Turner Quintet
Jack Jones Featuring Joey DeFrancesco


Double Portrait
Giuseppe Millaci and the Vogue Trio
Afro Futuristic Dreams
Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids
Pharoah (Box Set)
Pharoah Sanders
Dynamic Maximum Tension
Darcy James Argue's Secret Society

On the record

Vibes on a Breath
Ted Piltzecker
Jonathan Karrant
Brazilian Match
Luiz Millan
Double Portrait
Giuseppe Millaci and the Vogue Trio

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.