Friday, October 12, 2007

Frank Morgan keeps Bop Flame Burning Brightly

One of several saxophonists that was labeled the next Bird, Frank Morgan notes that was the worst thing to happen to him as it was something no one could live up to and then having three decades of adversity including addiction and prison. Since he has returned to the scene the mid-eighties with a string of excellent recordings for Contemporary, he has certainly re-established himself as a superior player in the tradition of Parker. HighNote has issued A Night in the Light: Live at the Jazz Standard Vol. 3 with a marvelous band including pianist George Cables, bassist Carmen Lundy and drummer Billy Hart. I have not heard the earlier two volumes but based on the performances. No surprises in the repertoire, with four of the songs staples of Charlie Parker’s repertoire, Confirmation, Half Nelson, Hot House and Billie’s Bounce, along with On Green Dolphin Street and It’s Only a Paper Moon. These are songs Morgan has been playing for decades but familiarity does not make these performances sound routine. There is plenty of full-bodied playing here with a marvelous rhythm section and while Morgan may take these in a more relaxed fashion than Bird would have 55 years ago, Morgan’s playing is quite satisfying. Certainly nice that he has aged so gracefully and continues to enliven us with this disc.

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