Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Terell Stafford, Brotherlee Love, Celebrating Lee Morgan

When I was still in high school I chanced to buy the double LP Lee Morgan Live at the Lighthouse. I became a Lee Morgan fan for life. By now having heard and appreciated nearly all he recorded in his lifetime, I can say without reservation that Lee is one of the supreme jazz masters that lived on this earth in our lifetimes. So when trumpet stalwart Terell Stafford devotes a CD in loving tribute to Lee Morgan, I welcome it. Brotherlee Love: Celebrating Lee Morgan (Capri 74138-2) gives us much to celebrate. Terell manages to remake many of Lee's best compositions and to provide us with a 21st-century view of how Lee's music still speaks to us.

That may sound like something easy to do, but to do it right is no simple matter. What makes it work is, first and foremost, that Terell Stafford is an accomplished trumpet stylist in his own right. He comes out of the tradition that spawned Maestro Morgan, clearly, but he has his own take on it all. He extends the music in an original way. You hear all that on the album, for sure.

Then there's the band. They are right there in the swinging pocket demanded from the music, but they are no Blue Note era clones, far from it. Saxophonist Tim Warfield channels it all to his own perspective on it, as does pianist Bruce Barth. They add their own solo strengths to the music. Bassist Peter Washington and drummer Dana Hall provide the underpinning and push that drive the music to where it needs to be.

It's great to hear the remakes of gems like "Mr. Kenyatta," "Speedball," and somewhat lesser-known things like "Yes I Can, No You Can't" "Caroline," and Terell's own original "Favor."

Terell gives us some wonderful trumpet artistry here. The band stays with it and everything clicks with heartfelt love of Lee and the music and how it all can still be a platform for jazz of the high-caliber variety.

Oh, yes, they can! And they do! This is a great album. It is a tribute to Lee and it is a tribute to Terell and his band. Hear it!

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