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Frank Morgan: Reflections

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As Frank Morgan approaches age 73, he’s now completed two decades of a remarkable comeback from the heroin addiction that derailed his musical career from the mid-1950s until 1985. During the remarkably prolific period that followed the release of his first comeback recording, Easy Living, through 1996, Morgan released 15 recordings-then didn’t record again until his 2004 live session, City Nights.

With the release of Reflections, it appears that Morgan has once again decided to focus on recording. And this strong studio session-recorded in the legendary studios of Rudy Van Gelder-captures Morgan’s lyrical, swinging alto sax sound at its best. Backed by pianist Ronnie Matthews, bassist Essiet Essiet and drummer Billy Hart, Morgan shines on pairs of tunes by both Miles Davis (“Walkin'” and “Solar”) and Thelonious Monk (“Monk’s Mood” and “Blue Monk”). Around these classics, he turns in well-crafted takes on standards such as “I’ll Be Around,” “Out of Nowhere” and Billie Holiday’s “Crazy He Calls Me.”

Interestingly, Morgan turns in one of his best performances on “Love Story,” a tune that he rescues from triteness with a lyrical, direct-to-the-heart reading. The rapport between Morgan and his fellow musicians is strong, and the music flows organically throughout. This one’s a winner.