Internet commerce can feel awkward when one is attempting to say to prospective buyers, “You would enjoy spending money on this pleasurable rare object.” Or, in the new expression I just learned from a Swedish jazz friend, “smashing the savings pig.” Be not alarmed: purchase of this CD will not do any animal, ceramic or real, harm.
The CD in question is a beauty: “THE COMPLETE MORTON PROJECT / Neglected masterpieces by the first great jazz composer / ANDREW OLIVER / DAVID HORNIBLOW.” (lejazzetal Records: # LJCD21). For those who are already excited, the link to purchase or download is here. .
I’ll let pianist Andrew explain:
David and I began playing together when I moved to London from Portland, Oregon, in 2013 and we quickly secured a weekly duo gig during which we learned a lot of Morton’s best known compositions. We’ve continued to work together frequently in the Dime Notes and the Vitality Five, and one day in 2017 as we added yet another fantastic Morton tune to the book of one of the bands, David suggested we should just learn them all! This seemed rather hilarious and we quickly started recording YouTube videos and posting them at a rate of two per week, with a goal to record and post all 93 tunes during 2018. Despite a fair bit of stress later in the year, we managed to complete this goal and decided to put down some of our favorites in the studio for this album. We’ve selected a cross section with a few well-known tunes and a lot of lesser-played ones demonstrating the full range of Morton’s compositional style and featuring David on bass clarinet and bass sax in addition to clarinet for some added textures.
The Morton compositions on the disc are SHREVEPORT STOMP / CROC-O-DILE CRADLE / GAN JAM / STATE AND MADISON / FINGER BUSTER / COURTHOUSE BUMP / STRATFORD HUNCH / MAMANITA / GOOD OLD NEW YORK / FREAKISH / I HATE A MAN LIKE YOU / JUNGLE BLUES / BLACK BOTTOM STOMP / MR. JELLY LORD / MY HOME IS IN A SOUTHERN TOWN — spanning the stylistic and chronological range of his career.
The jazz audience can be thrifty, so perhaps I should explain why JAZZ LIVES readers would consider purchasing this CD when Andrew and David have unlocked the treasure chest of Mortonia week by week with slightly under one hundred music videos. I can only say that, having followed the Complete Morton Project on video for about a year, I was delighted by what I heard on the CD. Whether you view the videos as master takes or alternates, there is vibrant lively improvisation on each song, so I did not feel that I was listening to familiar music, even though I knew both the Morton compositions and the Oliver-Horniblow interpretations from last year.
Second, the sound is beautifully spacious — even though the YouTube channel sounded just right, the CD sound is more expansive and detailed.
Third, and this is not a comic statement, you can listen to the CD in the car without endangering others or yourself. I would be alarmed if I got into a car with a Morton fancier who was watching the YouTube videos while attempting to drive us somewhere. LET ME OFF UPTOWN or DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM would come instantly to mind, euphemisms for “Stop right now!” So purchasing the COMPLETE MORTON PROJECT is not only an act of self-love; it’s good for pedestrians and other motorists. I rest my case. Buy it here.
Rereading what I’d written above, I wondered whether some would perceive it as flippant, which isn’t my intention. Although Andrew and David are great players and great imaginers, their joyous work is seriously rewarding. Morton’s work is so powerful — his compositions and his orchestral recordings as well as his piano renderings — that it seems to leave many musicians awe-struck and somewhat frozen. Thus, facing three minutes of architectural grandeur (say, the Victor BLACK BOTTOM STOMP) they are relegated to attempting to play the record through their own instruments in this century, and when such acrobatics come off, they are entrancing. (Almost no one I can think of has attempted the other kind of homage: “let’s play DEAD MAN BLUES as a boogaloo,” and that is all to the good.) What David and Andrew do and did is something else: their reductions of Morton (or, amplifications, if you consider those duo performances based on piano solos) seem to say, “We know this material is strong in every way: melody, harmony, rhythm. Let us, as if we were restoring an irreplaceable eighteenth century painting, strip off all the accretions, all the layers of performance practice, all the flourishes that come from taking records as sacred text, and concentrate on the Music. Let us also see, in the best New Orleans – Chicago – New York style, what our warm imaginations can bring to this song.”
Thus they venerate Morton but also play him, with wondrous results.
The link to see, hear, purchase other lejazzetal CDs — including four delightful ones by Martin Wheatley and friends; the Dime Notes; the Vitality Five, and more — is here.
May your happiness increase!