Scott Morgan – Songs Of Life – Miranda Music MMCD 1024, 50:38 ***:
A release filled with promise.
(Scott Morgan – vocals; Fred Hersch – piano; Matt Aronoff – bass; Ross Pederson – drums; Special Guests – Joel Frahm – tenor sax tracks 3/5/8; Janis Siegel – vocals track 10)
An internet search of the name Scott Morgan turns up four wildly different individuals including an American rock and roll musician, a Welsh rugby union player, a Canadian artistic gymnast, and a retired English footballer. However, the Scott Morgan of the debut release Songs Of Life is nowhere to be found. Now that is not necessarily a bad thing. However it can be interpreted that this Scott Morgan has not yet made a blip on the American musical scene, and thus has a great deal of ground to make up.
The good news is that the producer and musical arranger for this session is the brilliant pianist Fred Hersch. While this does not guarantee success, it is a better starting point than might have been hoped for or expected. The set list covers a panoply of tunes from popular standards to The Beatles to James Taylor to pianist/composer Fred Hersch. As Morgan breezes through the numbers, he exhibits a light airy voice, which rarely strays out of a middle range, and unfortunately exhibits little or no dramatic tension. But Morgan does have a sense of swing which he exhibits on the opening track “It’s You Or No One” the Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne gambol. Hersch delivers a bright and lively solo exploration on the theme.
At its core, Songs of Life is really a story about songs of love in all their forms and fancies. On “I Just Found Out About Love” the trio is joined by tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm who adds his own deep throated playing to Morgan’s the bouncy rendition of the tune. Every album released these says seems to include the requisite Duke Ellington composition, and in this case it’s “I’m Just A Lucky So And So”. Saxophonist Frahm again takes a brief tenor solo, that falls into sync with Morgan’s bluesy rendition of the number.
The final two tracks on the album are an interesting juxtaposition with James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” contrasted against Lennon/McCartney’s “I Will”. On the former, Morgan takes a wistful approach to the Taylor lyric, with an appeal against loneliness. In a duo setting with Hersch, Morgan offers a musical poem to the vow of fidelity. Scott Morgan’s approach to the material is heartfelt, and coupled with Fred Hersch’s pianistic curiosity, makes for a release filled with promise. [Amazon only has the MP3 downloads at the moment…Ed.]
TrackList: It’s You Or No One; Little Prayer/Wouldn’t It Be Loverly; Song Of Life; Lazin’Around; I Just Found Out About Love; Secret O’Life; Like A Lover; I’m Just A Lucky So And So; Lost In The Stars; I’ll Follow; This Heart Of Mine; Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight; I Will