David Morgenroth Quartet | Verdant

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Jazz: Jazz quartet Jazz: Chamber Jazz Moods: Type: Instrumental
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by David Morgenroth Quartet

Genre: Jazz: Jazz quartet
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Barbara
7:00 $0.99
2. Counterplot
5:01 $0.99
3. ¡macanudo!
4:30 $0.99
4. Estate
6:28 $0.99
5. It's Magic
4:19 $0.99
6. If You Could See Me Now
7:16 $0.99
7. Meridian
6:52 $0.99
8. Verdant
6:57 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
His last release, Alone With Duke (2009), allowed pianist David Morgenroth to construct his own little musical universe as it relates to the music of Duke Ellington. In the solo format, he called the shots—dealing out melody, harmony and rhythm cards—all from the same hand. It was an impressive display of keyboard mastery and a comprehensive artistic body-scan. If it was ever in doubt, the Montana native showed that he could handily make a place for himself in the jazz capitals of either coast.
In this follow-up effort, Morgenroth returned to Andy Waterman’s Umbrella Studios the following year. The album before you is a piggyback production of sorts; David came to Los Angeles to record a trio album of Johnny Mandel tunes for a Japanese label. He was in the company of some of the best and most accomplished Southern California jazz players, so Morgenroth used the occasion to cut a program weighted toward his originals.
His collaborators are standard-bearers for present-day L.A. jazz. Tenor and soprano saxophonist Bob Sheppard’s ease with all kinds of material has earned him a top berth in the Hollywood studios. He has a superlative facility that gives his improvisations the carefree air of someone whistling them on the way home from work.
Philadelphia-reared bassist Chris Colangelo is a propulsive player. “This music has to feel,” he holds, “as if it’s leaning forward. If it’s not, it can be perceived as dragging.” A key to Colangelo’s musical DNA is his respect for the way bass master Ron Carter functioned in the Miles Davis Quintet of the 1960s. “Everybody went for it in that group,” Chris notes. “That’s great, but somebody’s got to stay home and keep the lights on. That was Ron’s role, and he performed it beautifully.”
Few drummers have the skillset that drummer Joe LaBarbera brings to the trap set. Whether he’s driving a big band, swinging and shading a trio or sight-reading a singer’s nuanced charts on a nightclub gig, LaBarbera is one of jazz’s greatest contemporary practitioners.
Though Morgenroth lived in New York for six years and studied with the great pianist Fred Hersch, he’s also spent a fair amount of time in SoCal. He loves the East Coast energy but has found a kinship with West Coast players. “Musically,” David believes, “I think that the L.A. cats are just as heavy, but they’re more relaxed. They’re extremely serious about music but they certainly have a more relaxed approach to life. I like that a lot.”
Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now” is something David used to play with clarinetist Buddy DeFranco. Sheppard’s tenor is its most rhapsodic on this lush ballad, though his soprano is positively creamy on “Barbara.” The big sound that Colangelo achieves is captured with just one microphone—and no pickup. And hear LaBarbera’s gently lapping cymbal waves on the title tune.
David’s compositions come from a necessity of expression. “I don’t do it every day,” he says, “like I play piano.” Melody is primary to his pieces, exemplified by the sprightly “Barbara,” written for his wife, museum director and former professional clarinetist Barbara Koostra. The rhythmic challenges of “¡Macanudo!” are one example of what prompted LaBarbera to heartily commend Morgenroth for his compositions and arranging.
Morgenroth reflects many of the important pianos stylists of the past 50 years. His strong lyrical quality denotes his love for the classic Bill Evans Trio of bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. The hell-bent swing of “Counterpart” recalls the dynamic tension of Horace Silver and Red Garland-led rhythm sections. While David’s solos sparkle, his comping indicates that he takes obvious joy as one-third of a cooking rhythm section. By contrast, he confesses that the very personal “Meridian” comes from “some deep, dark place inside of me. There’s a certain edge, a certain danger to it.” As Joe Zawinul could express grittiness and beauty in the same piece, so too can Morgenroth hit to either field.
Bruno Martino’s sensual “Estate” is an old favorite; aside from his longtime fondness for Brazilian music, David loves the pedal points in the tune. The floating “Verdant” is rife with harmonic implications without strict traffic signs. Morgenroth’s classical music grounding underpins his playing. It’s full of the kind of lyrical sunshine and playful execution that are hallmarks of this very accomplished pianist.
Prepare to be moved. --Kirk Silsbee
December 2014



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