Jazz is an art form that allows musicians to drawn upon an endless array of stylistic and cultural traditions. While a number of jazz artists have incorporated the sophisticated forms of classical music in their writing and performances, there are few true concerto works for a jazz orchestra and fewer still composed for guitar.
On Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra
, three master musicians have joined forces to create a project of great beauty and depth. The music is composed by Justin Morell
and presented with virtuosic performances by guitarist Adam Rogers
and the Frost Concert Jazz Band
under the direction of John Daversa
The Guitar Concerto incorporates elements of concertos by Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, and to the great concertos of the Romantic period, while drawing on the musical languages of contemporary classical and jazz music. The Concerto is in three movements (fast, slow, fast). Although it uses the classical sonata form as the outline for two of its movements, it does require the soloist to improvise much more extensively than a work by Haydn or Mozart, and unlike classical concertos, it has moments of backbeat grooves, Brazilian rhythmic influences, and harmony that is typical of modern jazz or classical music.
The project was conceived by Morell, a guitarist who has a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon in composition and jazz performance and is currently an Assistant Professor of Music in composition and theory at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania. He has previously recorded six jazz CDs as a leader. His most recent project was Subjects and Complements, a collection of new works for a ten-piece jazz ensemble, which he released in 2013. Jazz critic Richard B. Kamins said of the CD, “The subtlety of the arrangements, the mature melodies, and the seemingly ego-less playing of the Dectet make this a joyous listen. Justin Morell is a voice and musician who gives one much hope for the future of creative music, and this CD is well worth exploring time and again.” Morell composed many concert works and has recently been commissioned to compose five new arrangements of original works by saxophonist Idit Shner, a song cycle for baritone and string quartet for the Pacific Serenades concert series in Los Angeles, a work for large jazz ensemble for the Portland Jazz Composers’ Ensemble, and new music for saxophone, bass and guitar premiered at the North American Saxophone Alliance convention.
Morell says, “As a guitarist and composer, I’ve written several ensemble works that featured parts for the guitar; however, I never wrote an entire piece utilizing the guitar as the lead instrument. I became interested writing more extensively for the guitar when I was commissioned to write a concert work to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lebanon Valley College. I thought the piece should have a contemporary feel, and so I wrote a work that included three steel-string guitar parts. I truly enjoyed the process of exploring the full range of musical possibilities that the guitar offered.”
After composing his guitar concerto, Morell contacted Daversa to help him bring the project to life. Daversa is a Grammy-nominated trumpet and EVI player, composer, arranger, producer, bandleader, and the Chair of Studio Music and Jazz at the Frost School of Music at University of Miami. Morell and Daversa have known each other literally their entire lives. Both of their fathers were busy musicians and friends in the Los Angeles studio scene, and their families spent a lot of time in each other’s company. Morell and Daversa grew up playing music together. Daversa was excited to work with his old friend, and he looked forward to the opportunity to use the Frost Concert Jazz Band for the project. The Frost Concert Jazz Band is one of the premier collegiate large jazz ensembles in the country. Their level of proficiency is remarkable.
Daversa and Morell decided it would be a wonderful opportunity to bring an additional voice to the project, so they brought on board Rogers, a virtuoso in both jazz and classical guitar. He has performed, toured, and recorded with some of the top names in jazz, such as Michael Brecker
, Cassandra Wilson
, Norah Jones
, Ivan Lins
, Marcus Miller
, Terence Blanchard
, John Patitucci
, and Bill Evans, to name just a few. Morell says of Rogers, “Adam Rogers is among a very select few guitarists in the world who possesses a command of the guitar capable of playing the very difficult and intricate written passages with expressive, musical fluidity. The piece places equal demand on improvisation, and Adam is a master of creating the beautiful, long lines that thread musical ideas from one section into the next.”
The consummate performances on this album belie the complexity and richness of the music. It takes the stature of brilliant musicians like Rogers, Morell, and Daversa to bring a project like to successful fruition.Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra
will be available on ArtistShare
, Amazon, iTunes and everywhere on December 7, 2018.