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.
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
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.
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.
Get more of a good thing
Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.