By Carlo Wolff | Published March 2019
Recorded at the 1989 Montreal Jazz Festival, Montreal Memories alternates up-tempo bebop classics with more relaxed, earthy originals.
Charlie Parker is alto saxophonist Frank Morgan’s key inspiration, and signature Parker tunes bookend the recording. But Morgan, who can be spiky and fluid in a single phrase, is no pale imitation of the master. And pianist George Cables commands styles from barrelhouse to modernist shards of sound.
Cables starts gruffly on “Now’s The Time,” but Morgan takes Parker’s tune in another direction with his aspirational lines, a sweet bite to his tone. Cables’ solo evokes stride with his authoritative left hand, even as his lighter right hand occasionally unfurls a glissando.
Morgan is breathier, Cables starker, on a loving “All The Things You Are,” and the two take a similar approach to “’Round Midnight.” Monk’s classic brings out Cables at his leanest, Morgan at his most precious.
While the quicker tracks are exciting, the meat of this album is the more leisurely tunes. “Blues For Rosalinda,” Morgan’s tribute to long-time companion Rosalinda Kolb, starts in a Gershwin mood, then goes deep; Cables worries the tune into a virtuosic plane.
The sunny “Helen’s Song,” Cables’ tribute to his partner Helen Wray, sets playful Morgan lines against bravura piano runs, and “Lullaby,” another Wray tribute, hushes things before the finale, a grafting of Wayne Shorter’s “Nefertiti” and Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce” that doesn’t quite take. Ending with the gorgeous “Lullaby” might have been a better decision.
Montreal Memories: Now’s The Time; All The Things You Are; A Night In Tunisia; ’Round Midnight; Confirmation; Blues For Rosalinda; Helen’s Song; Lullaby; Medley: Nefertiti/Billie’s Bounce. (61:10)
Personnel: George Cables, piano; Frank Morgan, alto saxophone.