ON AND OFF THE SCORE Reviews
There is an element in Powell’s music, maybe it’s the jazz esthetic, that infuses a graceful linear clarity. As each piece is experienced, it seems to curve more often than it corners. The end result for this listener is that I sense the design and logic in each piece, but also the organic, the warmth and beauty of the human heart of the composer.
Part of the success of this collection is due to the chemistry between Powell and the musical coterie on each track. So intimate is the relationship that the performers sound like different incarnations of Powell himself. As such, the listener will not hear many seams between what is prescribed and what is improvised in this collection. When those seams are evident (as on TRR Improv, 2014), the music does not surrender to the mayhem and massiveness that can often occur in group improvisation settings. Instead, the performers contribute collegially and embrace with a like-minded purpose.
There are a great variety of listening experiences in this collection as the instrumentation shifts with each track. Throughout runs the common thread of Powell’s intended message, the delivery of which is patient, well-timed, and as generous to the ears and heart as it is to the intellect.
– Jay Miglia, jazz musician
Miscreant Angels is a truly “fantastic” work for solo piano in that it resembles a “Fantasie” in its exceptional variety of moods, texture and character. It presents a technical challenge on a par with that of the Liszt etudes, the sensitivity of a chopin nocturne and the clarity of the classical composers and yet it is entirely unique in style. It is both powerful and intimate, virtuosic and poignant.
Waterclown is a masterpiece! It is a perfect interweaving of ensemble, solo and improvisational elements that transports the listener into another time, into another world.
Martirano’s performance is masterful and inspired! A significant work for the solo violinist who can integrate jazz elements, improvisation and the virtuosity of the Esaye solo sonatas.
FP Improv: Hilariously Brilliant!
– Dr. Ariane Alexander, pianist
I think the entire CD is remarkable, and have listened to it in its entirety several times.
I feel honored to have been included on a CD with such master performers.
Sonny’s Songs is one of the most difficult pieces I’ve ever attempted; over the years it has grown on me.
I love it.
– Dorothy Martirano, violinist
Morgan is not usual, nor is his music, nor should we listeners be when listening to it. This album covers a wide period of time. While I hear the common thread of a unique voice from work to work, I also hear the results of grappling with sound materials in new ways in each piece. Really beautiful stuff – all of it! “Waterclown” was a particular standout for me. Congratulations also to the wonderful players!
– Dr. Erik Lund, composer, trombonist
From CD Liner Notes
Composer Morgan Powell is a brilliant, genuinely unprecedented artist who has quietly created a tremendous body of scored and improvised compositions(the latter as a member of the Tone Road Ramblers sextet). Powell has never sought reputation, his musical process being so much a part of thoughtful living that to step away into promotion is to depart into an alien world inimical to the twin improvisatory processes of life and music.
In a world awash with recorded music, composers we haven’t heard of tend to merge into a pounding headache of background noise. We feel annoyed and imposed upon even by free handouts of new CDs by unfamiliar artists, and especially when we’re asked to buy something cold. Why should we?
Music composition is a profession; for many, it’s a competition. For composer and improviser Powell, it’s art, launched by observation toward the end of new understanding—and new beginnings. There’s no looking back: Life is improvised from minute to minute moving forward, and this is how Powell composes. His third eye music creates sounds and form not from rules or traditions of music, but from the freedom of art.
So if listening to Powell’s extraordinary, unfamiliar music sounds like a recommendation to eat your vegetables—it’s good for you!—freedom has to have the same lack of appeal. Who knows what will happen when there are no rules that both bind but protect you? When there is nothing to tap your foot to, telling you that you are hearing “correctly?” What if the music is written so that you can listen with your own ears and mind open, taking what comes and interpreting it as you will, without needing an expert to tell you what you hear? With Powell’s music, every listener is an expert because for every listener it is unprecedented—completely new. Sit back and let it float or drown you; lean in and delight in the brilliance and sweetness of the sound world Powell composes, offers to you, or ambushes you with.
Powell’s music is powerful, beautiful, efficient, and unprecedented in the challenges for the many virtuosos who commission it and play it. In Morgan Powell you will discover a composer you wish you’d discovered years ago because his music reminds you why humans make art in the first place.
– Ann Starr, Upper Hand Press