Frank Morgan: Raising the Standard

Frank Morgan image 0
David Franklin

Frank Morgan

Raising the Standard offers more of the same from legendary altoist Frank Morgan’s November 2003 stint at the New York club that produced his well-received release City Nights. As such, these additional tracks show no letdown in quality. Almost 70 at the time and having suffered a stroke five years earlier, Morgan still plays with youthful exuberance on such up tunes as Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” and Mile Davis’ “Tune Up.” And although he engages in full-fledged improvisation on Ellington’s revered ballad “In a Sentimental Mood,” he exhibits a mature self-assuredness in staying close to the melody on such other lovely slow songs as “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” and “Old Folks,” which his exquisite tone and subtle use of dynamic contrast imbue with intense feeling.

Since the program was completely unplanned and unrehearsed, it was essential that pianist George Cables, bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Billy Hart provide Morgan with hearty and inspirational support, which they do in exemplary fashion. Indeed, Cables proves not only a consummate accompanist, but also an inspired soloist in his own right, as his ingenious thematic development of the melody of “Footprints,” for example, ably demonstrates.