JUSTIN MORELL — Justin Morell Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra (feat. Adam Rogers) (review)

JUSTIN MORELL — Justin Morell Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra (feat. Adam Rogers) album cover Album · 2018 · Third Stream Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
js
I’ve probably listened to hundreds of works that combine jazz and classical music, but I really have not heard anything similar to Justin Morell’s new opus, “Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra”. There are some familiar elements at work here, but overall Justin’s vision of what a jazzy concerto can sound like is unique to himself. The press package that comes with this CD is somewhat misleading as it references classical concerto composers such as Mozart and Beethoven, and although Morell may have used some of their compositional forms, there is nothing on here that sounds remotely like Beethoven, which is probably good as I can hardly imagine jazz mixing well with Ludwig’s German sensibilities. Instead, what we hear on hear is rooted in the early jazz classical mixers such as George Gershwin and Duke Ellington, plus modern big band arrangers along the lines of Thad Jones and Bob Mintzer, as well as mid-20th century composers such as Paul Hindemith and Darius Milhaud, and finally, the unexpected use of modern minimalism in its more melodic aspects in the style of John Adams and some of Phillip Glass’s less repetitive pieces. Its this subtle use of the minimalist’s style that helps give Morell’s work its unique sound.

“Concerto for Jazz Orchestra” is divided into three movements stated quite simply as fast-slow-fast. The opening movement introduces the aforementioned minimalist approach in a very subtle and disguised manner. Do not expect the pounding repetitions of some of Phillip Glass’s work, instead Morell’s method uses melodic fragments that get passed around by the orchestra while the guitar keeps a steady stream of notes flowing. Toward the end of this movement guitarist Adam Rogers is given a chance to solo over the orchestra's rhythmic punches. Movement two is almost ballad like and features a section in which Rogers trades solos with a saxophonist, but the CD cover does not tell us which saxophonist does the soloing. The third movement picks up the pace in a style similar to the first.

This CD is not easy listening, like much of today’s jazz and concert hall music, the sounds on here are abstract and fragmented and not always easily absorbed with just a few listens. Still, fans of contemporary 3rd stream music will want to check this out. As mentioned earlier, Morell’s vision is singular and you will probably end up agreeing with me that this concerto does not sound like anyone else.
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