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Friday, Jan. 13, 2006
LISTENING POST: CD REVIEWS
Frank Morgan "Raising the Standard"
By MICHEAL PRONKO
In 1955, Frank Morgan was promoted as "the new Bird," and like his idol Charlie Parker, his sax playing had a quickness and brilliant, hard tone that set him apart from other horn players. Unfortunately, also like Bird, he spiraled down into heroin addiction, and disappeared from jazz. Thirty years later, Morgan re-emerged clean of drugs and ready to restart his music.
His fluid improvisations and deeply felt lyricism on CDs in the 1980s and '90s felt like newly discovered treasures. After slowing down over the last decade, he agreed to record at one of his favorite clubs, the Jazz Standard in New York. The resulting two CDs -- "Raising the Standard" and the already released "City Nights" -- put him in a live setting with an excellent backing trio. Combining the most lustrous Bird-like bop and a cool west coast tone, Morgan heaps huge emotions into potent solos. This straight-on jazz has all the pretences stripped away, and however they were stripped away, the result is inspiring.