'BrotherLee Love' Offers A Fearless, Fresh Tribute To Trumpeter Lee Morgan

Jun 29, 2015
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Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a review of a new album by trumpet player Terell Stafford. Stafford leads his own groups and has recorded with Bobby Watson, Matt Wilson and The Clayton Brothers, among others, and runs the jazz program at Temple University in Philadelphia. Stafford's new album honors another Philadelphia trumpeter, the late Lee Morgan.

(SOUNDBITE OF TERELL STAFFORD SONG, "HOCUS POCUS")

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Terell Stafford playing "Hocus Pocus" by Lee Morgan from Stafford's new album, mostly devoted to Morgan tunes, "Brotherlee Love." Inviting comparison to that great trumpet forebear is risky, but Stafford catches Morgan's fearless spirit and asserts his own voice. Terell Stafford has a warm and hefty tone and a personal way of breaking up swings, alternating strong and weak accents to vary his phrasing.

(SOUNDBITE OF TERELL STAFFORD SONG, "HOCUS POCUS")

WHITEHEAD: I like that sneaky paraphrase of "Mona Lisa" toward the end there. Terell Stafford loves a playful quotation the same as Lee Morgan did. One key reason - or five - that his tribute album works so well is Stafford's quintet. They've been recording together for a decade with only one personnel change. And Stafford and tenor saxophonist Tim Warfield have played together way longer than that.

(SOUNDBITE OF TERELL STAFFORD SONG, "CAROLYN")

WHITEHEAD: Terell Stafford and Tim Warfield on Lee Morgan's "Carolyn," retracing Morgan's and Hank Mobley's steps from 1963. There isn't too much down tempo stuff on Stafford's "Brotherlee Love." This band wants to strut. The solos are all fresh, but sometimes they'll mimic Lee Morgan's arrangements, and sometimes the rhythm section will punch them up for a hyperreal version of classic hard bop. When pianist Bruce Barth gets going, his two-fisted solos have headlong momentum. The great Chicago drummer Dana Hall gives him an extra push.

(SOUNDBITE OF TERELL STAFFORD SONG, "YES I CAN, NO YOU CAN'T")

WHITEHEAD: Lee Morgan's boogaloo "Yes I Can, No You Can't." The title's an apparent dig at Sammy Davis, Jr.'s, then current autobiography, "Yes I Can" - a jibe consistent with Morgan's cocky attitude. Terell Stafford's band catches that in abundance, but even in the thick of it, they may simmer down a minute for contrast. Here, Stafford and bassist Peter Washington on "Speedball," Morgan's blues name for the cocaine and heroin cocktail.

(SOUNDBITE OF TERELL STAFFORD SONG, "SPEEDBALL")

WHITEHEAD: Terell Stafford's solos sometimes hint at another of his inspirations - Wynton Marsalis. Like Lee Morgan, Marsalis digested some prominent influences on the way to being influential himself. That's pretty much the Terell Stafford story, too. So it goes in oral traditions like jazz - even if you start out telling other people's tales, in the retelling, those tales will become your own.

(SOUNDBITE OF TERELL STAFFORD SONG, "SPEEDBALL")

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure and is the author of "Why Jazz?" He reviewed "Brotherlee Love," the new album by trumpet player Terell Stafford. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, I'll talk with writer Vendela Vida, who's the co-founder of the literary magazine The Believer. Her husband, Dave Eggers, founded the literary journal McSweeney's. Vida's new novel, "The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty," was on our book critic Maureen Corrigan's list of four books for early summer reading. She described it as both a travel cautionary tale and a fantasy about the infinite possibility that travel offers. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.