Melissa Morgan Conjures the Sounds of Old-School Vocal Jazz
Melissa Morgan is a newcomer with an old-school pedigree. Her earliest exposure to jazz was by way of her grandmother’s record collection when she was growing up in Teaneck, New Jersey. Some of the first jazz voices she ever heard from among those old LPs – Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson – were also some of the greatest.
Two decades after first hearing those classic voices, Morgan’s tastes still run to that heyday of the great jazz divas. Her debut recording, Until I Met You, scheduled for release on Telarc on April 28, 2009, captures that organic, old-school sensibility and reintroduces it to an entirely new generation of listeners.
“I wanted that classic sound,” Morgan explains. “I told the engineer from the very beginning, ‘I don’t want this to sound too polished or too modern.’ There are some places where it’s not perfect, but it has such an organic feel to it, and just a raw soul about it, and that’s exactly what I wanted.”
Morgan is assisted on this first outing by a great crew of musicians. The rhythm section consists of pianist Gerald Clayton, guitarist Randy Napoleon, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Kevin Kanner. Augmenting the core lineup is the four-piece horn section of trumpeter Christian Scott, alto saxophonist Tim Green, tenor saxophonist Ben Wendel and trombonist Francisco Torres.
“I can’t say enough wonderful things about all of them,” says Morgan. “A few of the tracks were the first and only takes. We might have done one or two more in some cases, but the ones that ultimately made it onto the record were the first takes, and we didn’t touch them. I think that says a lot about us as a group, and how we all get along and how well we play together.”
Whether the individual song is bittersweet or lighthearted, Morgan sees the music in general as part of a larger story, one that she’s anxious to tell – provided she can do it in a way that’s meaningful to the listener.
“With the first record, you want to do everything,” she says. “You become very ambitious. But I’ve learned that you have to be sort of like a film editor. You have to be focused, you have to have a central theme, and the sequence is of utmost importance. You really have to hold the listener the entire way through. I wanted to take the listener on a journey, and show them what I’ve been through and what’s important to me.”
Listen to Until I Met You and catch the first chapter of Melissa Morgan’s promising story.