Guitarist Justin Morell has succumb to his inner conflict between jazz and classical musics and composed a dozen pieces bowing to each in what may best be considered a jazz suite. This is not Gunther Schuller's "Third Stream" or the Modern Jazz Quartet's chamber jazz. It is a little bigger than that. Morell leads one of those provocative ensembles that is neither a big band or a small combo.
There is orchestral magic between seven- and eleven- member groups that cast the music they perform against a sonic white background, where ingenuity and talent are necessary to fill in the spaces with color. Miles Davis's Nonet and Art Pepper's + Eleven fall into this category, as well as Morell's dectet.
Morell weaves among straight compositions a series of fugues in multiple voices. Here he uses his reeds section to great effect often with a single reed as a voice. The most complex of these is "Fugue in E-flat, in five voices." It is the most dissonant piece on the recording using percussion and bass as two of the voices in the fugue. The result is a highly listenable piece of music that explores as much as it entertains.
"The Straight Man" follows, continuing the edgy anxiety of the fugue and giving the mood a decidedly noire feel. So much of Morell's music here has a cinematic quality that is very appealing. This little-big band recording is very good and highly accessible.
Track Listing: Noun Ember; Fugue in B, In Three Voices; The Wobbler; O; Fugue in B-
flat, In Three Voices; Fugue in E-flat, In Five Voices; The Straight
Man; Fugue in E, In Four Voices; Sun Subtle; Fugue in C, In Three
Personnel: Bob Sheppard: alto and soprano saxophones; Ben Wendel: tenor
saxophone, bassoon; Matt Otto: tenor saxophone; Phil O’Connor: bass
clarinet, tenor and soprano saxophones; John Daversa: trumpet and
flugelhorn; Alan Ferber: trombone; George Thatcher: bass trombone;
Justin Morell: guitar; Leonard Thompson: piano; Damian Erskine: bass;
Mark Ferber: drums.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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