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  • Jonathan Widran

JUSTIN MORELL, Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra

This masterfully rendered, alternately sweeping and introspective three movement concerto gives us a deeper understanding, in several remarkable ways, of how uniquely disparate elements can come together to create an extraordinary work. Front and center are composer Justin Morell, featured guitarist Adam Rogers and John Daversa, who directs and conducts the Frost Concert Big Band (from the University of Miami), which features 13 horns and five piece rhythm section.

The trio leads us through a three movement (fast, slow, fast) journey that begins with “Lost, Found and Lost,” reflects more gently and soulfully on “Life and Times” and becomes as dynamic and empowering as a section called “Terraforming” might indicate. Showcasing the expansive capabilities of jazz to incorporate a multitude of forms and genres, the guitar concerto lays its foundation by incorporating elements of classical concertos by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven and popular concertos of the Romantic Period.

Yet it’s much more than classical music reimagined for big band. It’s all about whimsical fusion as the three principals tap into trad jazz, soul-jazz, funky R&B grooves and global influences, including bold Brazilian rhythms – all laced with modern jazz and classical harmonies. This is a work of uncommon passion and depth, which will give jazz and classical aficionados many details to dissect even as the more casual listener gets swept along its uniquely emotional byways.

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