December 2008

Gary Morgan and Panamericana!
December 28, 2008 Lula Lounge Toronto
Report by Laura Fernandez with photo by Richard Jacobson
Over the last few years I have been on a road of discovery and have developed a deep respect and appreciation for this brilliant and eclectic musical form they call Latin Jazz. Saturday night, Dec. 28th, 2008 was a wonderful stop along my journey. The place of rest was Lula Lounge and the attraction was Gary Morgan and Panamericana! If music were a view to behold and not just an aural awakening of the soul, I would say that I had paused in front of a magnificent panorama; a tropical rain forest replete with birds, exotic flowers and fragrant plants bathed in a mysterious and misty light.
Composer, arranger and bandleader Gary Morgan was born in Chile but spent a good part of his life here in Toronto before moving to New York and forming his band Panamericana!, a 20-piece ensemble made up of some of the finest New York Latin Jazz musicians. He originally formed the band as a vehicle for modern Cuban and Brazilian music as well as his own compositions. Saturday night was a colourful display of his lush and majestic arrangements performed by his Canadian version of Panamericana! which included the best of Toronto talent.
Gary Morgan
Morgan himself cuts a striking figure. Tall and lean, he struck me as gracious and meticulous. I had the pleasure of conversing with him before the show and was taken by his elegant and gentle demeanor. As he took his position out front to lead his band he did so with the air and confidence of a great maestro.

The evening took off with a dynamic piece by Todd Anderson called “Taz” which featured seductive solos by David Wiffen on saxophone, Kevin Turcotte on the trumpet and Mike Ruby on tenor sax. This was followed by the haunting piece “Reflexos” (Luiz Eca), a beautifully textural piece featuring a tasteful and inventive piano solo by Gordon Sheard. True to form, throughout the evening the band performed a variety of classic and modern material from contemporary Brazilian and Cuban composers as well as Morgan’s own original works. Highlights in the program included Milton Nascimento’s “Ode to Vera Cruz” which featured a blistering trombone solo by Phil Grey and the signature trumpet lines of Alexis Baro. “Olha Maria”, a Tom Jobim composition, was beautiful and spiritual in its simplicity. Morgan’s original compositions — the sultry and powerful “Dream City” (part of a suite inspired by the paintings of Paul Klee) and the majestic “Celtic Echoes” — were rich and sumptuous. Throughout the evening the best of Toronto’s Latin Jazz musical community wove a tapestry of sensual solos against a diaphanous backdrop of elegant orchestrations. The balance was perfect. Roberto Occhipinti and Mark Kelso anchored everything and added a driving energy and playfulness to the arrangements. The band was tight and the evening was well paced. The project was a clear demonstration of the caliber of Toronto musicians as well as the quality of Gary Morgan’s imaginative and masterful arrangements and strong musical direction.

The evening was truly a feast. The crowd as well as the band clearly enjoyed the music and Gary’s charming and informative introductions. I for one will most definitely be attending as many Gary Morgan and Panamericana! performances as I possibly can — perhaps the next time in New York!

The Musicians
Trumpets: Tony Carlucci, Alex Baro, Kevin Turcotte, Brian O'Kane
Trombones: Phil Gray, William Carn, Christian Overton, Pete Hysen
French horns: David Quackenbush, Katie Toskoy
Saxophones: David Wiffen, Tara Davidson, Mike Ruby, Jeff King, Pol Coussee
Piano: Gordon Sheard
Bass: Roberto Occhipinti
Drums: Mark Kelso
Percussions: Rick Lazar, Jalidan Castro
We welcome your comments and feedback
Laura Fernandez
• • • • • •
The Live Music Report
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Laura Fernandez is a singer, songwriter, and performer. Laura is also a producer and radio host for JAZZ FM 91, Toronto.

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