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Gary Morgan & Panamericana!: Live at Birdland

Gary Morgan & Panamericana’s Live at Birdland (CAP) is a well recorded and mixed 1998 gig, thankfully released now with a solid sound. For this spirited release Morgan marshaled 20 musicians into a forceful, expressive and densely layered musical entity. Some, like bassist Harvie S, percussionist Memo Acevedo and trombonist Chris Washburne, are not only recorded leaders on their own but also frequent partners in various Latin music goings-on. Toronto native Morgan’s material, featuring particularly sturdy horn arrangements, can’t be easily traced to a particular source, but his 20-odd years in New York City, however, seem just as important in his development, perhaps even more so as his homage to Bobby Paunetto in “Refractions” bears out. Milton Nascimento’s “Vera Cruz,” on the other hand, elicits grandeur through a frontline of five-flute sweetness coloring the tune, with surprising reharmonizations of the original without compromising its melodic playfulness or rhythmic undercurrents. For all the talk of ensemble tightness and meritorious writing, however, can the soloists hang, inspire and carry the band? They can.

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