Gary Morgan's orchestrations are an absolute feast. He thrives on the diverse rhythms of Latin America and the Caribbean and his arrangements are clever and energetic. Recently he led his powerhouse big band, PanAmericana, through a show at the New York City Baha'i Center in support of their new release Felicidade. There was little overlap between the songs played at the set and those on the disc, but the lineup was the same: a combination of Morgan originals and songs by musicians who are largely unknown in America, but held in the highest esteem by Morgan and throughout Latin musical communities.
Morgan loves colorful horn bursts and robust percussion, within which soloists have ample room for expression. The first number at the show, "Samba School"similar to the CD's opener, "Batuki Di Bangu" is a brass riot, with funk elements rubbing elbows at the bar with the AfroBrazilian rhythm. The studio version of "Reflexos" is a beautiful ballad with a brass overture reminiscent of Miles Ahead; in concert, however, John Bailey unleashed his 'muted' trumpet and nearly drowned out the band. The haunting "Dream City," part of a suite inspired by the paintings of Paul Klee, has a seductive melody and rhythms anchored by soprano and flugelhorn that underscore the title perfectly. (The band performed another part of the suite, "Black Prince," at the show) But it's the title cut, a relentless and joyful samba by Antonio Carlos Jobim, that truly encapsulates the spirit of the disc.
One key to composing and arranging for a big band is to find a suitable balance of sounds without sacrificing instrumentation. If rhythm and instrumentation aren't coordinated properly, the result can be chaotic. Morgan's excellent composing and arranging, on stage and in the studio, supports his ability to manage these elements masterfully and produce the kind of wonderful music that he has on Felicidade.
Track Listing: Batuki Di Bangu; Because Why?; A Felicidade Intro; A Felicidade; Tudo Bem; Reflexos; Pedra Vermelha Intro; Pedra Vermelha; Moragatu; Celtic Echoes Theme; Dream City; Viajando Pelo Brasil.
Personnel: Jon Owens, John Chudoba, Chris Rogers, John Bailey: trumpets; Mike Boschen, Tim Albright, Jeff Bush, Alan Ferber, Chris Olness: trombones; Mike Atkinson; Amie Margoles, Chris Komer: French horns; Todd Bashore, Bruce Williamson, Ben Kono,
Dave Riekenberg, Terry Goss: saxophones/woodwinds; Cliff Korman: piano; Andy Eulau, Ray Marchica: drums; Renato Thoms, Annette A. Aguilar: percussion.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.