Terell Stafford, Brotherlee Love

Review by Willard Maus

Here’s another love letter, this one from Terell Stafford, who has put together a worthy tribute to one of his idols, the late trumpeter, Lee Morgan. On BROTHERLEE LOVE Stafford revisits seven tunes composed by Morgan back in the 60s and 70s, including such classics as Hocus Pocus and Speedball. Backing up Stafford are his longtime partners in crime: Tim Warfield on sax, Bruce Barth, piano, and Dana Hall, drums. Together these musicians cook from beginning to end.

Morgan was a legend in his native Philadelphia (he played with Dizzy Gillespie and then the Jazz Messengers while still in his teens). Stafford has a Philly connection himself (he teaches at Temple University and heads a local jazz orchestra), but above all it’s his respect for Morgan that drives him. “Lee Morgan was a total genius,” he explained. “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.”

It’s no mean feat to re-imagine the songs of a man you consider a genius, but Stafford proves that he’s more than up to the challenge. He plays with such fire, imagination and beauty–-especially on his own 12-minute-long composition, Favor–that it’s no exaggeration to say that Lee Morgan would be puffed up with pride for him.