It isn't always easy paying tribute to a legend, but pianist Roberto Magris does it quite successfully on this tip of the hat to Lee Morgan, one of the defining figures of hard bop. Magris succeeds because he has a trumpeter, in Brandon Lee, who is not afraid of being adventurous, and a more than adept alto saxophonist in Logan Richardson, The pianist, as he has shown, is comfortable in any frame, playing with virtuosity, finesse and clear vision.
Magris creates a sturdy base with six compositions from Morgan and adds two of his own and one from Billy Harper. Of the two from the leader, "Lee-Too" sits firmly in hard bop. The band sets up a limber, sparkling mood that is first driven by Lee. His phrasing is supple and carries enough ideas to make his excursion interesting. Richardson on the other hand is hardier and works on building tension, a stance that is dissipated when Magris comes in. He lights up the path with resolute chords and a spry propulsion of melody. "Lee Morganized" is atmospheric. At first it is Lee who carries the momentum, with a seamless blend of agile lines and ripe harmonic turns before Magris casts himself in another stellar performance letting his intonations of the melody saturate his playing. However, bassist Elisa Pruett opens the structure and the dynamics to make the tune sturdier, with Albert "Tootie" Heath tying into her pulse and changing it around to add a cornucopia of hues.Interestingly enough, there are "Audio Liner Notes" on the CDan interview with Heath, by Paul Collins.
It would have been facile to imitate the originals, but Magris gives the Morgan compositions fresh details and a sense of purpose making this a sincere tribute. With outstanding musicianship added to the mix, Morgan Rewind has many engaging pleasures.
Croquet Ballet; Party Time; Desert Moonlight; Lee-Too; Ceora; Hocus Pocus; Eclipso; Mr. Kenyatta; Lee Morganized; Audio Liner Notes.
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