On Brotherlee Love a tribute to the great trumpeter, Lee Morgan, the celebrated horn player Terell Stafford plays his heart out literally and figuratively as well. He has excellent credentials to make this homage come alive. The cantabile lines that play an important role in these nine songs, many of which have been written by the master, Lee Morgan, himself, benefit from Terell Stafford’s refined style and ability to retain interest with small but effective nuances. His playing is often restrained, yet he embraces wholeheartedly the passionate outbursts, as when the trumpet takes over in the heraldic theme in Mr Kenyatta. The cadenzas these and elsewhere on Fever and Carolyn are superbly paced, that in the former building tension inexorably, the meditative one in the latter’s opening movement a model of beautiful legato blowing.
One feels that most pointedly in the great eleventh hour oration of the trumpet in the opening piece, where the most pertinent of all the revolutionary songs – Hocus Pocus – puts aside defiance and mourns the fallen. So squarely is it phrased here by Terell Stafford that it seems to break the imprisoning shackles of the rhythm and that result in a portending liberation of the song. And it is not simply the individuals but the collective that plays with the same soulful fervour that has come to be the signature of not just the honouree, Lee Morgan, but also the signature of Terell Stafford as well. Here he gives an electrifying account of himself and along with his ensemble succeeds in all but bringing Mr Morgan back to life.
The ensemble plays with precision and commitment and the recorded sound here is big and spacious, evoking power and mystery. Terell Stafford, of course, plays himself: quiet, sinewy and with an edge of wistfulness that suggests all of the character and mystery and tragedy of Lee Morgan’s life. But he can also be racy and this too is in keeping with the sartorial elegance of Lee Morgan, who during his life was known for his overwhelming elegance and style both on and off the bandstand. Terell Stafford mirrors this with a tinge of sadness almost as if to say ecce homo in the idiom of jazz of course, evident here as the trumpeter conveys this through the impression of sustained improvisation.
The nine songs each offer a succession of movements, played with breath-taking pauses, which alternate between superbly modulated slow and fast tempi, and improvisatory and contrapuntal textures, dominated by a dazzling array of ostinato variations. Along the way the listener encounters solos, dialogues and conversations, sublime suspensions, jaunty syncopated and insistent concitato (agitated repeated-note) rhythms and expressive, occasionally modal harmonies that go well with the muscular melodic fare. What wonderfully warm, eventful and ultimately deeply satisfying performances these are.
Track List: Hocus Pocus; Mr Kenyatta; Petty Larceny; Candy; Yes I Can, No You Can’t; Favour; Stop Start; Carolyn; Speedball.
Personnel: Terell Stafford: trumpet; Tim Warfield: saxophone; Bruce Barth: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Dana Hall: drums.
About Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford, acclaimed trumpet player based in New York, has been hailed as “one of the great players of our time, a fabulous trumpet player” by piano legend McCoy Tyner. Stafford is recognized as an incredibly gifted and versatile player, he combines a deep love of melody with his own brand of spirited and adventurous lyricism. Stafford’s exceptionally expressive and well defined musical talent allows him to dance in and around the rich trumpet tradition of his predecessors while making his own inroads. Read more…