Frost Concert Jazz Band presents “Justin Morell Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra”

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Frost Jazz Orchestra demonstrates what it sounds like when classical and jazz elements co-exist in one recording. The musicians and the sounds go beyond simply melding the two styles. They take things a step further so that any oversimplified ideas about fusion can be eschewed. Instead, the group engages in the making of “creative music” and the resulting music is as exploratory and focused as listeners might assume it to be.

About Frost Concert Jazz Band and “Justin Morell Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra”

The Frost Concert Jazz Band plays music created in one form or another by three musicians: Justin Morell composed the music, Adam Rogers supplies virtuosic performances on guitar, and John Daversa directs the band.

The band itself is comprised of several sections including woodwinds, which is made of several saxophone and clarinet players. There is even one bass clarinet player, who also plays baritone saxophone. There is one flute in the section. The horns are split into “trumpets/flugelhorns” and “trombones,” each with several members a piece. The rhythm section features the players that audiences expect to constitute a band: piano, guitar, vibraphone and glockenspiel, bass and drums.

The recording, “Concerto For Guitar and Jazz Orchestra” uses elements of concertos by popular classical composers such as Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart. The Concerto is in three movements: fast, slow, fast. The Concerto makes use of the classical sonata form for two of the three movements, but demands that the soloist improvise in a way that is more consistent with jazz than with classical music. Further, the work delves deeper into jazz tradition by the use of backbeat grooves, Brazilian rhythms and harmony found in jazz and classical music.

The project began to take shape after Morell was intrigued to write larger pieces featuring the guitar as the lead instrument. Once the concerto was complete, Morell contacted Daversa to o help bring it to life. Daversa is a Grammy-nominated trumpet and EVI player. In addition, he is composer, arranger, producer, bandleader and the Chair of Studio Music and Jazz at the Frost School of Music at University of Miami. The two took the music to Rogers, the virtuoso they were looking for.

“Adam Rogers is among a very select few guitarists in the world who possesses a command of the guitar capable of playing the very difficult and intricate written passages with expressive, musical fluidity…” Morell says of the guitarist.

The sound of “Justin Morell Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra”

The recording is relatively brief. Each section has a running time of fewer than 20 minutes. It is easy to use words like “moody” and “atmospheric,” but they are accurate. For listeners who appreciate rich, layered sound, this unique recording is perfect.

The three songs offer different moods as indicated by the pace each has been assigned as part of a concerto. For example, on track I, “Lost, Found and Lost,” the horns’ dynamics are heightened by drumming that almost functions like a clock or a metronome. The guitar riffs are fluid-sounding as they wrap around the soundscape. The horns move from sounding pensive, to a bit brighter, but the moodier sound comes back. Short bursts of horn lines are interspersed with long ones. An interesting part comes less than halfway through when it sounds as though the horns make a percussive “stomp” comprised of very low notes. The passage creates an up and down feel that will remind some listeners of rock music. It repeats a few minutes later.

“Justin Morrell Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra” is an interesting and ambitious project that feels and sounds well-planned and executed, and not merely experimental. This is a perfect album for people who feel as though they have heard all that jazz has to offer, or for those who simply want a recording that is out of the ordinary.

 

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