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13,132 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 13 years ago. 551 of them this year alone and, so far, 106 this month (April 22).

Coming soon ...

April 29: Vieux Carré Jazzmen are back at The Holystone.

May 20 Maine Street Jazzmen are back at Sunniside Social Club.
May 23: Vieux Carré Hot Four are back at The Spanish City.

June 2: Vieux Carré Jazzmen are back at Cullercoats Crescent Club.
June 7: Jazz in the Afternoon are back at Cullercoats Crescent Club.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

CD Review: Justin Morell - Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra

(Review by Max Goodall)
Justin Morell writes, describing his reasons for composing Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra, that ‘Jazz is an art form that allows musicians to draw upon an endless array of stylistic and cultural traditions. While a number of jazz artists have incorporated the sophisticated forms of classical music in their writing and performances, there are few concerti works for a jazz orchestra and fewer still composed for guitar.’ Morell has for many years been exploring the possibilities of jazz’s capacity to absorb, accommodate and be moulded by disparate influences, in both his well-received jazz CDs as a leader, and his wide-ranging compositions and commissions, as well as in his work as Assistant Professor of Composition and Theory at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania.


I must admit that I personally am often skeptical of attempts to use elements drawn from classical music in jazz compositions, something which I feel is often motivated by assertions of classical’s ultimate intellectual superiority. Moreover, I find that, when it comes down to it, the results of such projects are often really not particularly enjoyable to actually listen to.

Despite this, on this occasion, Justin Morell has been totally successful in overcoming my skepticism. The album draws particularly from the form of the nineteenth century Romantic Concerto, using this as a basis to structure the work. The album’s success is that Morell marries this with really engaging contemporary jazz writing. The sound-world is reminiscent of that of Pat Metheny or Tim Garland. At times the music is defined by a constantly shifting, quite unstable harmony, but this also frequently breaks out into moments of lovely tasteful simplicity, particularly in Life and Times, the second movement. This forms a really quite beautiful bed over which Adam Rogers’ elegant solo guitar playing floats. While much of Rogers’ part is pre-composed, the moments at which he is required to improvise are real highlights, particularly an extended free interaction between guitar and drums in the third movement, Terraforming.

Morell’s writing for Rogers’ is masterful, with moments of incredible virtuosity juxtaposed with sweet, highly intuitive melodic writing. His use of the ensemble is also incredibly effective. In Terraforming a repetitive melodic line in the guitar is gradually taken up and developed throughout the whole Orchestra, building to a breath-taking climax. The music of this movement, and indeed the whole album, is incredibly complex and difficult. The Frost Concert Jazz Band under the direction of John Daversa show themselves to be an ensemble of remarkable quality. Their execution of Morell’s work is flawless throughout.

This is a truly exceptional album in both its performances and the quality of the compositions featured. I strongly recommend giving it a listen – you won’t regret it!
Max G.

Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra was released on December 7, 2018, on Artistshare.

John Daversa (director, conductor); Justin Morell (composer, arranger); Adam Rogers (guitar); Tom Kelley (alto sax, soprano sax); Brian Bibb (also sax, flute); Chris Thompson-Taylor (tenor sax, clarinet); Seth Crail (tenor sax, clarinet); Clint Bleil (baritone sax, bass clarinet); Russell Macklem (trumpet); Michael Dudley (trumpet); Aaron Mutchler (trumpet); Greg Chaimson (trumpet); Derek Pyle (trombone); Will Wulfeck (trombone); Eli Feingold (trombone); Wesley Thompson (bass trombone); Jake Shapiro (piano); Josh Bermudez (guitar); Mackenzie Karbon (vibraphone and glockenspiel); Lowell Ringel (bass); Garrett Fracol (drums).

1 comment :

Steve T said...

Jazz still suffers from an inferiority complex to classical music; a throwback to C19th. I remember seeing Wayne Shorter perform his classical piece he'd composed to commemorate his 80th birthday. I say I saw it but I left not long in. Like others, he believes he will only be remembered if he writes for an orchestra, but his places in history are assured: they're called the Second Great Quintet, Bitches Brew and Weather Report.
I sometimes get wrong for hijacking peoples posts so apologies.

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