Sunday, September 21, 2014

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at CDs by Roberto Magris, Dan Moretti and Ernie Watts….

Roberto Magris Septet, Morgan Rewind - A Tribute to Lee Morgan, Vol. 2 (JMood)
One helping of Lee Morgan’s music wasn’t enough for Italian pianist and bandleader Roberto Magris. On the heels of a quintet tribute to the hard bop trumpeter and composer released in 2010, Magris is back with a two-CD celebration of many more Morgan tunes with a newer, larger band. The septet also includes Hermon Mehari on trumpet, Jim Mair on saxophones, Peter Schlamb on vibes, Elisa Pruett on bass, Brian Steever on drums, and Pablo Sanhueza on congas and other percussion. My ears tell me this new one trumps the original, with the mallets and the congas adding interesting new textures.

In addition to 11 Morgan originals (including ”A Bid for Sid,” “Cunning Lee,” “Helen’s Ritual,” “Speedball” and “Zambia”), Magris includes two gems of his own: the sprightly romp “Libreville” and the ballad “A Summer’s Kiss.” The band steps up to the challenge of honoring one of bop’s great composers, whose life was cut short in 1972 by a bullet in a New York nightclub (ironically named Slug’s). With both spirited playing and loving care, they’ve kept the flame burning for Morgan’s musical legacy.

Dan Moretti & The Hammond Boys, Live at Chan’s (Roots Grooves)
New England-based tenor player Dan Moretti thrives at the intersection of jazz, blues and soul. And that’s where we find him on this project, recorded live last November at Chan’s in Woonsocket RI. The Chinese restaurant has been presenting jazz and blues artists regularly for more than 35 years. Moretti teamed with blues guitarist Duke Robillard, B-3 player Dave Limina, bassist Jesse Williams and drummer Lorne Entress on this project, a tip of the hat to soul-jazz masters from the 1960s, including Kenny Burrell, Jimmy Smith and Stanley Turrentine. Favorites: their takes on Bobby Timmons’ classic “Moanin’,” Gene Ammons’ “Shuffle Twist,” Reuben Wilson’s “Ronnie’s Bonnies” and Turrentine’s Soul Shoutin.” Moretti shifts from sax to flute for a bluesy take on Roland Kirk’s “Soul Underneath.”

Ernie Watts Quartet, A Simple Truth (Flying Dolphin)
Tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts has another gem on his hands. A Simple Truth finds him in the company of his European rhythm section. He’s worked with pianist Christof Saenger, bassist Rudi Engel and drummer Heinrich Koebberling for more than 15 years, and they’re simpatico shines through. My clear favorites here are his bittersweet reading of the Keith Jarrett ballad “No Lonely Nights” (reminiscent of Watts’ work with Quartet West) and the title track, a Watts original. The six quartet tracks are sandwiched between “The Sound: Morning” and “The Sound: Evening,” pieces by L.A. pianist Ron Feuer that feature Watts and Feuer’s orchestral-sounding electric keyboards. They open and close the CD’s concept of the varied moods of a jazz day.

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