John Daversa Jazz Orchestra – All Without Words – Tiger Turn Productions

by | Jun 12, 2021 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

John Daversa Jazz Orchestra – All Without Words: Variations inspired by Loren, featuring Justin Morell – Tiger Turn Productions – CD – 73:43 – ****1/2

There have been many CDs over the last few years that feature a blend of jazz and classical music. Maria Schneider’s Orchestra has led the way for the renaissance of this genre. When the production, and theme of the project combine to make a memorable musical experience, it is even more significant.

Such is the case for the new CD from the John Daversa Jazz Orchestra. Led by the mellifluous trumpet of Daversa, guitarist Justin Morell’s vision of sharing his life altering journey of raising a non-verbal autistic son (Loren) is brought to life. Justin has composed, arranged, and orchestrated twelve compositions that both move and inspire the listener to imagine the trials, tribulations, and “found” joy in dealing with such a parental challenge. Utilizing a four piece rhythm section, a full string section (nineteen members!), and ten additional (flutes, saxophones, bassoons, french horns) musicians; must have been challenging. Add in a percussionist, as well as a group of eight choir singers, and a guest pianist and violinist, to back Daversa’s lead trumpet, and you truly have an opportunity to achieve a monumental work.

Justin Morell’s compositions on this CD are magnificent. They are deeply moving, at times awe inspiring, with a mood of transforming healing (sorely needed in these trying times). The blend of orchestral strings with reeds/flutes, and horns, both soar and surround John Daversa’s trumpet, as he explores and re-creates Loren’s efforts to non-verbally communicate with his parents. Daversa uses squeaks, squeals, and slurs on his trumpet to bring to life the boy’s exclamations. There is much joy expressed, but foreboding musical sections also are brought to life. At times, there is a jazz musician with orchestra feel like Charlie Parker, Art Pepper, or Chet Baker might have done, but this is much more of a well thought out project. Morell’s vision takes on a “gravitas” approaching the sound stage that Aaron Copland’s work accomplished.

“Loren’s Theme” is glorious and hopeful. Daversa’s timbre is inquisitive and gentle, occasionally rising in intensity and probing, while his orchestra brings a Spring renewal joy. “Two Steps Forward” has an edgy opening, merging into a theme of anxiousness. John plays a repetitive phrase from which the strings and reeds rise and explore the “possibilities” that may arise for Morell’s son. Throughout the project there are simple embellished rises and dips in the melodies that have a child like innocence that captivates and charms.

“Seeing It Again for the First Time” has an ethereal cinematic quality, and brought a classic jazz with strings feel. “The Urgency of Every Moment” is an uptempo Daversa feature backed by the strong rhythm section.”Invisible Things” is both stunningly beautiful and hopeful, deserving of a Copland comparison. The symbiotic blend of orchestra and lead trumpet is richly explored on “Walking In Our Footsteps-The Circle Game.”

“The Smallest Thing” brought to me a sense of wonder and awe, with its heavenly orchestral flourishes built around John Daversa capturing Loren’s efforts to communicate. The closing track, “It’s Enough to be Here Now” features mood changes, high pitch trumpet “vocalizations,” before a rise of elegiac heavenly choruses by the choir before John takes the tune out.

This magnum opus by Morell and Daversa should deserve Grammy consideration. It’s that special…

Loren’s Theme, Searching But Never Finding, Two Steps Forward, Seeing It Again for the First Time, The Urgency of Every Moment, Invisible Things, Walking In Our Own Footsteps-The Circle Game, The Smallest Thing, A Day is Forever- Like Any Other, Three Roads Diverged, Learning Simply to Be, It’s Enough to Be Here, Now

Personnel includes:
John Daversa – trumpet; Scott Flavin – Orchestra conductor; Amanda Quist – choir director; Tal Cohen – piano; Justin Morell – guitars; Dion Kerr – bass; David Chiverton – drums; Percussion – Antoni Olesik – Guest Musicians: Conrad Fok – piano; Lev Garfein – violin

Recorded at: Weeks Recording Studio & Gusman Concert Hall, Frost School of Music, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Fl.

—Jeff Krow

John Daversa Orchestra – All without words

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