Ransom Everglades High School saxophonist Connor Munroe, from Miami, FL, has been playing the sax since he was nine years-old and has been selected for twelve All-American and All-State jazz bands among his many awards. He here presents his debut album, the warm and charming Then + Now. Offering a light repertoire of five well-known ballad standards and one original composition, Munroe leads a large ensemble, including a six-piece string section, provides the arrangements and conducts the orchestra in producing one amazing work of art almost single-handedly, quite an achievement for a high school student.
Munroe has performed in Miami's jazz scene for some time now, and is known for his soulful and melodic playing style reminiscent of legendary tenor saxophonists like Lester Young , Coleman Hawkins and Stan Getz, all of whom possessed a sweet tone and buoyant sense of rhythm. This young talent delivers a breathy, lyrical sound perfect for performing time-honored standards in re-imagined new light.
The Woody Herman/Ralph Burns standard "Early Autumn" opens up the music with the string section setting the pace on an old-styled love ballad that shines brightly. The immortal Duke Ellington classic "In a Sentimental Mood," follows with the saxophonist floating the notes as the strings lifts the band and background vocals in delivering one of the memorable moments of the project. The Matt Dennis classic "Angel Eyes" gets a fresh new treatment here featuring the leader on vocalsyes, this saxophonist also sings and this tune was his first time as a vocalist in public. Using the Nelson Riddle arrangement, this version is quite appealing. Hoagy Carmichael's famous "Stardust" was a favorite tune of Munroe's late grandfather and the saxophonist pays tribute to him on a laid-back version of the piece.
On the last standard of the set, Munroe provides an exciting arrangement of Thelonious Monk's oft-recorded "Round Midnight," bringing in the big band sound where the brass and the drumming of Miguel Russel are pronounced. Munroe ends the album on the original "This is Dreaming" where the artist prefers his vocals to his tenor on a very brief sign off to a beautiful session of warm, light jazz.
As debut albums go, Then + Now is a significant recording produced during the nations pandemic and designed by one of the future young lions in the jazz world. Connor Munroe has certainly established a sound foundation on this impressive outing, with college years ahead, we can be certain to hear a lot more from this dynamic talent in the future.
Early Autumn; In A Sentimental Mood; Angel Eyes; Stardust; 'Round Midnight; This is Dreaming.