Most dictionaries describe the word “Tribute” as being an expression of gratitude, or more elaborately something said or given to show gratitude, praise, or admiration. In his enormous, three disc, Morgan Rewind—A Tribute to Lee Morgan there is ample evidence of this being done in a gracious and uplifting manner, aglow with music that is soaked in the warmth of Lee Morgan’s own sojourns which Mr. Magris follows by taking his own road into the all-encompassing spirit and idiom of jazz. The size of this tribute is in keeping with Lee Morgan’s reputation in the music he so loved. Mr. Morgan was and is much bigger than his reputation—even among today’s true fans of the music. He was a prodigious talent, proficient on vibraphone and alto saxophone, but he became a trumpeter, first enamored of Clifford Brown, then, as a student of Dizzy Gillespie in whose big band Mr. Morgan played for over a year. The trumpeter celebrated his career in jazz by recording 25 albums with over 250 musicians for the Blue Note album alone. In addition to his fabled recording, The Sidewinder Mr. Morgan was also a Jazz Messenger recording the chart “Moanin’” with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers as well as Blue Train with John Coltrane.
Roberto Magris’ approach to this tribute has been to showcase one side of Lee Morgan that is often ignored and that is his legendary ability as a composer. Mr. Morgan’s work is daring and devilishly difficult to learn and play. They are full of natural warmth and very dynamic and structurally interesting because of the choice of the notes in each of the melodies. “The Sidewinder” and “Hocus Pocus” from Mr. Morgan’s classic Blue Note album, The Sidewinder are good examples of this as is “Desert Moonlight”. There are always moments when the music leaps about in spry semiquavers; something that gives the right hand of a pianist a good workout while the left hand crosses over swiftly at times to play off-beat notes as well as explore rapidly the keyboard’s entire topography. The extreme agility of the music is transposable to all instruments that Lee Morgan used in his recordings and on The Sidewinder Joe Henderson can be heard to fly in the face of conventionality as he tackles the propulsive energy of say “Hocus Pocus” with as much daring-do as Lee Morgan does; in both cases the exercise takes so much energy. Moreover, Lee Morgan was rarely if at all, stuck in a groove. His virtuoso brilliance was displayed in compositions that were warm and slow as well as icy cool and lightning fast. He was also known to harbour great wit and hilarity as well as he could be deadly serious and soulful as his portrait “Mr. Kenyatta,” also on The Sidewinder.
Mr. Magris shows great maturity in his tribute. He brings his considerable and highly accomplished manner to the works of Lee Morgan, brought together in two volumes and three discs. This package showcases Mr. Morgan’s work during his career to a venerable degree. Mr. Magris’ arrangements have a wonderful viscosity to them and he explores the hidden dynamics of Mr. Morgan’s work with interesting combinations of metaphor and with an experimentalism that is refreshing. While the trumpet in these charts represented here is an important voice, it is not the only voice heard and in Volume 2 of this set there is also the inclusion of the vibraphone, which adds a certain resonance to the already bell-like quality of the work of Mr. Morgan. In all of this Roberto Magris’ pianism is magical and just as vibrant as Lee Morgan’s trumpet. Mr. Magris does extremely well to synthesise the elements of melody, harmony and rhythm into the series of captivating and compelling compositions by the great trumpeter. In his solos on most tracks Mr. Magris also reflects a certain ebullience that is picked up by the other instruments. The saxophone players on both volumes and the trumpeters play in long rhapsodic lines and in a gently reflective manner and their own soli is gracefully phrased and expounded. And it is these key players in the tribute who are excellently accompanied by an impressive pianist who always seems to be leading a partnership and takes the music places giving it prominence. In that respect he and the group are given much assistance by good engineering.
Track List: Volume 1: Croquet Ballet; Party Time; desert moonlight; Lee-Too; Ceora; Elipso; Mr. Kenyatta; Lee Morganized; Audio Liner Notes (by Paul Collins); Volume 2- Disc 1: 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 Song; Zambia; Helen’s Ritual; Audio Notebook (by Paul Collins).
Personnel: Volume 1: Brandon Lee: trumpet; Logan Richardson: alto saxophone; Roberto Magris: piano; Elisa Pruett: bass; Albert “Tootie” Heath: drums. Volume 2: Hermon Mehari: trumpet; Jim Mair: tenor and soprano saxophones, and flute; Peter Schlamb: vibraphone; Roberto Magris: piano; Elisa Pruett: bass; Brian Steever: drums; Pablo Senhueza: congas and percussion.
Label: J Mood Records | Release date: October 2010 and April 2014
About Roberto Magris
Pianist Roberto Magris was born in Trieste, Italy, on June 19, 1959. Early influences that still resonate with him include Wynton Kelly, Tommy Flanagan, Bill Evans, Kenny Drew, Jaki Byard, Randy Weston, McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill, Paul Bley and Steve Kuhn. He began his life as a professional jazz musician in the late ’70s. In his burgeoning career, he performed as a sideman with Kai Winding, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Sal Nistico, and as a guest soloist with the Traditional Jazz Studio bands from Prague. In the ’80s he led a jazz trio named Groupo Jazz Marca, and in 1987 he founded a quartet that performed exclusively in Europe… Read more…