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Roberto Magris Septet: Morgan Rewind: A Tribute To Lee Morgan Vol. 2

Dan McClenaghan By

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Italian-born pianist Roberto Magris gets deep into the music of his influences. He recorded two volumes of the music written by or associated with the somewhat overlooked bop pianist Elmo Hope, and in 2011 he released Morgan Rewind: A Tribute to Lee Morgan, Vol. 1 (JMood Records) , an exuberant nod to the hard bop trumpeter Lee Morgan (1938- 1972). He follows now the initial Morgan tribute with the aptly named Morgan Rewind: A Tribute to Lee Morgan, Vol. 2, a double disc set that explores with a thoroughness and reverence and joy—with some modernizing tweaks—the sound that the too-soon-gone bopper (thirty-three years old when he passed) crafted.

Hard bop evolved after the advent of be-bop that was pioneered by Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet) and Charlie Parker (alto saxophone). Hard bop took the speed and "chord-chasing" aspects of the then-new sound and gave it a brassy sheen and percussive kick in the ass, personified finely by drummer Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers, where trumpeter Morgan honed his skills early in his career, contributing to one of Blakey's classics, Moaning' (Blue Note Records, 1958), and sitting in on the John Coltrane's Blue Note Records classic Blue Trane (1958).

So what's Magris and his septet add to the hard bop discussion with this two disc Vol 2 set? Organs discs—Search for the New Land (1964), Charisma (1966), and Tom Cat (1964), among many more, all on the Blue Note label, swung hard, blew hard, and offered up in-your-face jazz. The Art Blakey influence ran deep. Magris, on his expansive Vol 2 offering, adds vibraphone and an additional percussionist to the mix and "African-izes" the music a bit with its deft, percussion-heavy ensemble sound.

It's an abundance of hard bop riches. The band cooks; solos blossom up all over the place. Trumpeter Hermon Mehari captures Morgan's brassy, spirited approach; saxophonist Jim Mair displays a simmering, Hank Mobley-esque restraint, cooking with a steady, medium heat, and he adds a sweet soprano sax to the mix here and there. Pianist Magris is unfettered (his sound is quite his own) in his freewheeling dances into the solo spotlights.

This is classic hard bop, blowing and swinging hard, nudged a bit in a modern direction, laid down with a zesty joi de vive.

Track Listing: A Bid For Sid; Exotique; Blue Lace; Cunning Lee; The Sixth Sense; Soft Touch; Gary's Notebook; Speedball; Libreville; Get Yo' Self Togetha; A Summer's Kiss; Zambia; Helen's Ritual; Audio Notebook.

Personnel: Roberto Magris: piano; Jim Mair: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Peter Schlamd: vibraphone; Elisa Pruett: acoustic bass; Brian Steever: drums; Pablo Sanhueza: congas, percussion.

Title: Morgan Rewind: A Tribute To Lee Morgan Vol. 2 | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: J-Mood Records

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