The irrepressible alto sax man Frank Morgan just keeps a cookin' and a cookin'. He's still vibrantly recording and gigging into his 70s and has lost nary a step, as evinced by a pair of excellent recent releases on HighNote.
On A Night in the Life: Live At the Jazz Standard, Volume 3, Morgan sounds as spry and mischievous as ever. This set from 2003 contains a program of standards with straightforward arrangements that he and his band pull off handily. Morgan pays considerable homage to Charlie Parker here on several tunes, but the operative word is 'homage', not 'imitation', for Morgan places his own signature on all of the classics here. He plays "Confirmation with a contagious verve that is echoed by pianist George Cables. Morgan soars on "Half Nelson playing with a strong, confident tone. The fine playing continues with "On Green Dolphin Street and "Hot House , with bassist Curtis Lundy adding solid plucked turns on each. Billy Hart is as steady a drummer as there is on the scene and throughout the disc he skillfully keeps everyone on point. The band's version of "It's Only A Paper Moon , despite a misplaced note of stridency by Morgan, is appropritely languid and it's a nice, simple way to end an entertaining set.
Morgan's studio album, Reflections, has slightly different personnel (mainstay Hart returns on the drums) but the result is still more great jazz. From the outset, on "Walkin' , Morgan reaffirms that his chops are strong as ever and bassist Essiet Essiet's robust plucked solo underscores the song's title with every note. Morgan pays wonderful tribute to Thelonious Monk with "Monk's Mood and "Blue Monk , playing like a dream on the former and with perfect bluesiness on the latter, with pianist Ronnie Mathews giving a heartfelt tip of his cap on both. Morgan can strut masterfully ("I'll Be Around ) or sing beautifully on ballads ("Love Story and "Crazy He Calls Me ) playing with a tone at once gentle and robust and building intricate, challenging ideas with an appealing ease. Whether he's on the bandstand or in the studio, Frank Morgan is a true pleasure to listen to.
Tracks and Personnel
A Night in the Life: Live at the Jazz Standard, Volume 3
Tracks: Confirmation; On Green Dolphin Street; Half Nelson; Hot House; Billie's Bounce; It's Only A Paper Moon.
Personnel: Frank Morgan: alto saxophone; George Cables: piano; Curtis Lundy: bass; Billy Hart: drums.
Tracks: Walkin'; Monk's Mood; I'll Be Around; Love Story; Solar; Blue Monk; Crazy He Calls Me; Out Of Nowhere.
Personnel: Frank Morgan: alto saxophone; Ronnie Mathews: piano; Essiet Essiet: bass; Billy Hart: drums.