Trumpet master John Daversa
is releasing his newest CD, All Without Words: Variations Inspired by Loren,
a lush, orchestral jazz trumpet concerto composed by his lifelong friend and collaborator Justin Morell
. Daversa is a prolific performing and recording artist whose projects often reflect important social themes, like his three-time Grammy-winning release, American Dreamers, Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom
(2019), which gave voice to young undocumented people known as “Dreamers,” or his most recent project, Cuarentena: With Family at Home
(2020), an homage to familial love and the healing power of music during the pandemic.
As a parent of an autistic child, Morell conceived All Without Words: Variations Inspired by Loren
when Daversa asked him to write a large-scale orchestral jazz piece. Loren, Morell’s son, struggled with the basics of communication from a very young age and lost his ability to speak by the time he was 3 years old. Raising an autistic child is fraught with challenges, but the bond of love between a parent and child is uncompromising and indelible. All Without Words
is a paean to the trials, tribulations, successes, and heart-warming moments of raising a 16-year-old non-verbal son. It is a story, told in music, about connection and compassion, pain and prevailing love.
On composing the piece, Morell explains, “Loren can be wonderfully spontaneous and always in the moment. One evening, I sat with him and listened to the singing and sounds that he often makes, recording them on my phone. I quickly returned to the recordings and transcribed two different segments of beautiful melody. These segments became the theme that is the basis for the eleven variations.” Loren’s voice is represented by Daversa’s distinctive trumpet sound.
The album was recorded at the Frost School of Music recording facilities at the University of Miami, where Daversa is Chair of Studio Music. He assembled an orchestra comprising some of the top jazz and classical musicians in South Florida, many, but not all of whom are associated with the university. Because of the pandemic, each section of the orchestra was recorded separately, adhering to social distancing guidelines on the spacious main concert stage. According to Daversa, “It wasn’t difficult getting musicians to participate in this project, even during the pandemic. They wanted to do it because they aligned with the music and intent, because of what they have in their hearts.”
As a composer, Morell has been influenced by Bach, Bartok, and Brahms, but also by contemporary composers like Herbie Hancock
and Wayne Shorter
. The music on this disc even contains elements of pop. Each of the eleven variations reflects different aspects of Morell’s life with his son, from the struggles of learning how to connect with a child who has difficulty with the most basic aspects of communication, to the constant pressure to find new treatments and modalities for dealing with autism, to the triumph of even the smallest successes. All Without Words: Variations Inspired by Loren
is a gorgeous album. Daversa is a musician of the highest caliber. His rock-solid chops and soulful, sensitive approach make the perfect vehicle for portraying the inner life of a special child. Morell did not set out to speak on behalf of individuals with autism. Rather, he explains, “What began as a mission to celebrate neurodiversity became an opportunity for me to connect with my son and hear his voice in a way I had not before. The music is born of intense emotion—sometimes painful and sometimes joyful—and of hope for a compassionate future where all people are loved and respected for their humanity.”
Producer Kabir Sehgal
sums it up, “This is a poignant and profound work. That maestros John Daversa and Justin Morell have come together for this collaboration speaks not only to their mutual respect and admiration, but their interest in doing good in the world. Here they have created and rendered a masterpiece, borne of personal experience, which speaks to the better angels of what music can be—a way to communicate and connect.”All Without Words: Variations Inspired by Loren
will be out on Tiger Turn and available everywhere on April 30, 2021.