Drummer Marty Morell may not be a household name to many, but he does hold a significant jazz title as being the longest running member of the Bill Evans triofor eight years (1968-1975). Although he did work steadily for artists during the 1960s, Morell provided a bridge between Paul Motian and Elliot Zigmund as the drummer in the famed pianist's trio. For the handful of trio albums that Evans made between 1963-1967, he used the services of Shelly Manne, Arnold Wise, Larry Bunker, Paul Motian, and even Jack DeJohnette. Morell's partner with Bill Evans was usually bassist Eddie Gomez.
Following the dissolution of that edition of the trio, Morell moved to Toronto and has thrived in the local jazz scene, in addition to occasional work in the 1970s as part of the Rob McConnell Boss Brass. Live, his first solo album, was recorded in 2002 at Toronto's popular Top of the Senator club. It's a good opportunity to hear what he has been up to. In this lengthy set, Morell keeps the hard bop fires burning brightly with a two-horn front line and lots of solo room.
Recorded before an appreciative audience, the album begins appropriately with a drum solo. The tunes consist of bebop lines written by Cedar Walton and Dizzy Gillespie, plus three Morell originals and one from pianist Gary Williamson. Although it has been 25 years (this month) since Evans' passing, Morell maintains a close musical connection with his former employer, dedicating two tunes here to him, "Waltz to BE" and "Bill's Theme." The pace only slows down for a reading of the Mellin/Wood standard "My One and Only Love," a showcase for Michael Stuart's tenor saxophone, which conjures up memories of the first half of the Coltrane/Johnny Hartman version of the song.