Monday, August 03, 2009

Frank Morgan - City Lights: Live at the Jazz Standard (Highnote, 2004)

There are very few second acts in American lives, but alto saxophonist Frank Morgan was one of them. Enthralled by the music of Charlie Parker as a young man, he took up the alto saxophone and began a promising career in the early 1950's. Personal problems sidelined him for much of the ensuing decades, before he put it all behind him and began to record and tour regularly from the early 1980's until his death in 2007. Recorded in the fall of 2003, this album has Morgan accompanied by George Cables on piano, Curtis Lundy on bass, and Billy Hart on drums. After taking "Georgia on My Mind" as a warmup, they roll right into the bebop favorite, "Cherokee" with Morgan sounding excellent and taking an extended solo at a rapid pace. After slowing the tempo for a relaxed and bluesy version of "Summertime" Cables introduces Miles Davis' "All Blues" with its memorable theme. The open space provided by the lack of trumpet and the modal nature of the composition provide Morgan with a lot of room to move. They sound at ease with a couple of nice renditions of Thelonious Monk tunes, "I Mean You" and "Round Midnight" with the first sounding bouncy and joyous and the second moody and enigmatic. Rounding out the album are two compositions of John Coltrane, "Equinox" finding Morgan stepping into the shadows and allowing the other three musicians solo space, and "Impressions" where Morgan steps back into the spotlight for an excellent lengthy solo. This is a nice snapshot of a fine traditional jazz musician creating in real time in a live setting. Cables, Lundy and Hart create a fine setting for Morgan to express himself, and he does so with passion and dignity.
City Nights: Live at the Jazz Standard - amazon.com

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