A love letter from one of Philadelphia's favorite trumpet-playing sons to another, BrotherLee Love features Terell Stafford celebrating the soulful musical legacy of jazz legend Lee Morgan. The follow-up to Stafford's acclaimed homage to composer Billy Strayhorn, BrotherLee Love (Available
June 16 on Capri Records) again features the trumpeter's regular band
of brothers, his incredible quintet with saxophonist Tim Warfield, pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Dana Hall.
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,
Arthur Harper, Mickey Roker, and Bootsie Barnes. 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, which has hosted special guests including
Jimmy Heath, Wynton Marsalis, Odean Pope, and Kenny Barron.
All of which makes BrotherLee Love a
show of respect and celebration from one favorite son to another. "This
project is about how I was embraced by this city and about a trumpet
player who has always been a huge inspiration to me," Stafford says. The
eight tunes contained on the album are a joyous celebration of the
music and spirit of Morgan, the Philadelphia native and trumpet legend
who made a profound impact on the history of jazz during his brief 33
years with his fiery virtuosity and soulful style. "Lee Morgan was a
total genius," Stafford enthuses. "The trumpet was merely a vehicle to
express who he was. There was rasp, there was grit, there was
personality, there was sass, exactly who he was as a person was inside
of his sound and that's what I loved about it."
project stems from a single concert, a Morgan tribute at Philadelphia's
Kimmel Center suggested by pianist Danilo Pérez, the venue's then
Artistic Advisor for Jazz. The response to that performance, and later
inclusions of some of Morgan's compositions in regular quintet sets,
left no question that these takes had to be recorded. "It's impossible
to play a Lee Morgan tune that people don't love," Stafford says. "There
was so much joy wrapped around playing this music, and I just hope some
of that comes through to the listener."
Photo Credit: Philippe Levy-Stab
Of course, being a trumpet
player paying homage to one of the instrument's most iconic masters
comes with an inherent intimidation factor, but Stafford has never been
one to back down from a challenge. As a young classical trumpet student,
he struggled against inadequate educational opportunities until coming
under the tutelage of Rutgers professor William Fielder, Stafford then
made a belated entry into the jazz world, training himself as an
improviser on jam session stages under the often hostile gaze of
while he admits that reimagining the songs of such an influential
trumpeter was daunting, Stafford nonetheless embraced the opportunity.
"It was very intimidating, because when you hear these songs you hear
one way to play them," he says. "But when you start playing these songs
where a bar has been set so high, you better just be yourself."
the album, that individuality shines through - not just from Stafford,
but from his longstanding quintet, for whom the "Brotherly Love"
nickname could have been coined. Warfield has been at Stafford's side
since the beginning of his plunge into jazz, standing alongside him
during those early trials by fire. Barth has become a close collaborator
on the bandstand and in the halls of academia, while Washington and
Hall form an intensely swinging rhythm section, maintaining the vigor
and muscularity of Morgan's tunes with their own unique feel.
songs bring out truly spirited playing from the entire band: check out
Stafford's tricky articulations on the sprightly opener, "Hocus Pocus,"
or his bluesy, muted moaning on the band's last-call read of "Candy;"
lean into Warfield's sinuous lines on "Mr. Kenyatta" or be knocked back
by Barth's keyboard-busting fire on the lesser-known "Yes I Can, No You
Can't;" witness Hall's avalanching climax on "Stop Start" or
Washington's dexterous, singing solo on "Speedball." Bask in the
quintet's lush, tender side on the gorgeous ballad "Carolyn."
there's Stafford's own contribution, "Favor," which didn't start out as
an homage to Morgan; it was originally commissioned by Philadelphia
chamber ensemble Network for New Music as part of a tribute concert to
contemporary classical composer John Harbison. But the piece earns its
place alongside these memorable Morgan compositions by virtue of its
easy swing, its loose but spirited vibe, and its lithe, blues-steeped
soul. It's also thematically relevant as Stafford meant the piece as a
way of giving thanks, he explains, "to have the gift to be able to do
this record and be able to touch people with music. That's what that
song represents, and that's what I put into this whole project."
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.
son of a teacher, education has always played a role in Stafford's
life. He's served as Director of Jazz Studies at Temple University for
the past twenty years, late integrating oversight of the school's
classical department as Chair of Instrumental Studies. In addition, he's
spent time as a clinician at the Vail Foundation in Colorado and Jazz
at Lincoln Center's Essentially Ellington program.
Upcoming Terell Stafford Performances:
June 2-7 / Village Vanguard / New York, NY
October 11 / Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz / Harrisburg, PA