Carol Morgan – Retroactive (2013)

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Carol Morgan is part of two jazz scenes, the NYC epicenter and the underrated Houston, Texas one. Her new, fifth release features this ace trumpeter with jazz luminaries from both towns. But Retroactive is multifaceted in a couple of other ways, too: a heady mix of originals and covers, and…well, it’s not necessarily straight-up jazz.

Morgan gets to brandish her diversity in all these ways in an album that’s quite a departure from the style of her previous records. The New York crew is headlined by Mike Stern on guitar (with Lincoln Goines on bass and Tim Keiper on percussion), while the Houston gang features another guitarist and the producer of this album, Chris Cortez.

Yes, there are a few old tunes, like “Tea For Two” and Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” tackled on Carol Morgan’s newest album, but forget the album title, there’s nothing “retro” in her treatment of them. The former, which might have the most swing of any of the tunes presented here, is harmonically transformed by Stern’s rhythm guitar. Morgan applies a very tasteful trumpet, unhurried but ripe with sweet notes. The latter is very recognizable, but with Cortez’s acoustic guitar, Keith Vivens’ slap bass and Andrew Lienhard’s keyboard, it’s a funky, fusion take. Again, Morgan’s trumpet commands in an unassuming way.

Not all the covers are jazz standards, though. Cortez plays a little slide guitar on “When The Levee Breaks” just as Jimmy Page did for the original. Nonetheless, this fusion take on a monolithic hard blues-rock tune is mature and appealing in a wholly different way. The hymnal “Spirit of God Descend Upon My Heart” is appropriately gentle and folk-based, getting by from the pure tone of Morgan’s horn.

Cortez clearly wrote “Stern Language” with the “other” guitarist in mind, but Jeff Sipe’s second line beat posits the song closer to NOLA jazz than the fiery fusion Stern is sometimes known for, as Stern and Morgan trade festive licks. Morgan’s own “Wholly-O” is a modified blues but with a jazzy strut and once again the affinity between her and Stern is a treat.

Carol Morgan has proven on prior records to be a superb straight jazz musician, but the wider range of styles found on Retroactive reveals that she’s just a superb musician, period.

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Retroactive is on sale by Blue Bamboo Music. Visit Carol Morgan’s site for more info.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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