Terell Stafford (trumpet) – BrotherLee Love: Celebrating Lee Morgan – Capri

Terell Stafford – BrotherLee Love: Celebrating Lee Morgan – Capri Records 74138-2, 76:22 *****:

(Terell Stafford – trumpet; Tim Warfield – saxophone; Bruce Barth – piano; Peter Washington – bass; Dana Hall – drums)

Who better than Terell Stafford to do a long overdue tribute to one of Philadelphia’s greatest jazz legends, Lee Morgan. Though not raised in the City of Brotherly Love, Stafford shows some big time love for Lee on BrotherLee Love. Stafford cut his jazz teeth in Philly working behind Shirley Scott and Mickey Roker. He has worked for over twenty years as the Director of Jazz Studies at Temple University.

More importantly, Terell, as much as any trumpeter on the scene today, can channel the energy and trumpet swagger that Lee Morgan embodied. Cut down in the prime of his life in a shooting at Slug’s Saloon in New York at age 33 in 1972, Morgan was just beginning to branch out in new directions with his trumpet. We are left with his discography (largely on Blue Note Records) and his mastery of soul jazz and hard bop stylings. His brashness was matched only by Freddie Hubbard during his life span.

Stafford is backed by an all-star quintet tearing into the Morgan songbook on such classic tunes as “Candy”, “Hocus Pocus”, and “Speedball.” Obvious choices such as “The Sidewinder” and “The Rumproller” were bypassed so as to explore some of the lesser known but still influential compositions. Morgan could blow out the lights on the upper register, but bring a tear to the eye on ballads as well. He was poised to concentrate on both modal and free form when he was killed.

In addition to Stafford’s talents, his recording mates help recreate the atmosphere that Morgan found with first call Blue Note roster artists. Saxophonist Tim Warfield has shared the stage with Terell often, and the rhythm section helps set the table for a rollicking full length CD session. Whether it be the familiar “comfort food for the soul” hard bop themes of “Mr. Kenyatta” and “Candy”, or the sublime ballad, “Carolyn,” everything here is first rate, a fitting tribute to the long lived stature of Lee Morgan.

Philadelphia has lost a bit of its prior stature as a mecca for jazz artists such as Coltrane, the Heath Brothers, Philly Joe Jones, and Benny Golson. The next generation was well represented by Christian McBride and Joey DeFrancesco. Luckily we now have Terell Stafford on board both as a jazz educator and monster trumpeter to spread the good word.

If you love jazz trumpet, hard bop, and the classic sound of prime Blue Note issues, then this CD is for you. Produced by John Clayton, the acoustics are spot on and the subject matter is well covered. A solid 5 stars…

TrackList: Hocus Pocus, Mr. Kenyatta, Petty Larceny, Candy, Yes I Can, No You Can’t, Favor, Stop Start, Carolyn, Speedball

—Jeff Krow

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