Jul 11, 2015
Three months ago I featured a tribute to trumpeter Lee Morgan on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of a number of his finest releases as a bandleader and sideman.
A native of Philadelphia, Morgan loaned his trumpet talents to classic albums like John Coltrane’s Blue Train, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messenger’s Moanin’, and Johnny Griffin’s A Blowing Session. He backed artists like Wayne Shorter, Hank Mobley, Freddie Hubbard and Jackie McLean, while carving out a career as a star in his own right. With the 1963 release of “The Sidewinder,” Morgan even had a jukebox hit. Sadly, less than ten years later he was dead.
It only seems natual that Terell Stafford, the trumpet player most closely associated with the City of Philadelphia today would record a tribute album of sorts to Lee Morgan. BrotherLee Love(on Capri Records) again features the trumpeter’s regular quintet with saxophonist Tim Warfield, pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Dana Hall. The result is a CD that is moving in many ways, not the least of which is its ability to move your feet. Stafford picks and chooses carefully through Morgan’s body of work, choosing the well-known (“Speedball”) along with the less heard (“Yes I Can, No You Can’t”). A highlight for me is the ballad “Candy”, with a memorable Stafford solo.
While Stafford may not be a Philadelphia native–he was born in Miami and raised in a suburb of Chicago–he’s become a vocal champion of the city’s storied jazz heritage. Stafford came of musical age on Philadelphia stages, mentored by local legends like Shirley Scott. For the past two decades he’s helped to pass that torch to the next generation through his work as Director of Jazz and Chair of Instrumental Studies at Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance, and he recently established the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia, an outstanding big band dedicated to spotlighting the city’s most gifted instrumentalists and composers, past and present.
Although he didn’t come to jazz until his early 20s, Stafford was a quick study and was enlisted during his college years to play with saxophonist Bobby Watson’s Horizon. From there he joined McCoy Tyner’s Latin All-Star Band alongside such greats as trombonist Steve Turre, flutist Dave Valentin, and percussionist Jerry Gonzalez. In addition to his work as a leader he’s continued to be an in-demand sideman, including considerable stints with the Clayton Brothers, Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts, and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.
Podcast 488 is my conversation with Terell, as we discuss his admiration for Lee Morgan, the state of students at Temple University, and his memories of playing on some of my favorite albums of the past few years. Musical selections include “Yes I Can, No You Can’t”, “Candy” and Stafford’s composition “Favor” from BrotherLee Love; a cover of Weather Report's "Teen Town" from Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts CD An Attitude for Gratitude, and “Shirley's Song“ from Alvin Queen’s I Ain't Looking at You.