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 by my high school girlfriend's father. On the one hand he was the school's Vice Principal, on the other
he was a big Miles Davis fan. He gave me my first jazz record, Miles at the Blackhawk.