Sep 28, 2013 - Saxophonist Morouse Celebrates CD Release with world-class talent
Tulsa-based saxophonist and composer Denny Morouse refers to the players on his new disc as “world-class,” and he’s not wrong. They include the great jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker, as well as renowned Brazilian performers Romero Lubambo (guitar), Helio Alves (piano), Nilson Matta (bass) and Duduka Da Fonseca (drums).
Morouse uses the same term to describe the two musicians who’ll be working with him live at Sunday’s Jazz Depot concert, when he unveils his CD Dancing with You after You’ve Gone. And once again, he’s right. They are keyboardist William Buthod and vocalist Annie Ellicott, Tulsans w
ho’ve both made a tremendous impression on Morouse since he moved to Oklahoma from Hawaii in 2010. Ellicott, in fact, traveled to Avatar Studios in New York at Morouse’s request, joining him and the other musicians to record vocals for “Desafinado” and “Skylark.”
“When we got to New York, Nilson, who was the [disc’s] co-producer, kept asking me, `Is she good? Can she sing?’ recalls Morouse. “He mentioned getting some other singers, great singers, but I just think Annie is better.
“So we had our first rehearsals [with Ellicott], and Nelson comes up to me and whispers in my ear, `Denny, I think you did the right thing.’”
Morouse first heard Buthod – who’s worked with the likes of Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Jimmy Heath, and Maiysha, among many others -- playing for a festival on Tulsa’s Cherry Street with a band that included Ellicott on vocals.
“I just thought, `I’ve got to get this guy’s number, because he’s the best piano player I’ve ever heard in this town,’” Morouse remembers. “And he’s a master organist. He performed the Bach Mass in B Minor at the Boston Avenue Methodist Church, with a 36-piece orchestra and a 100-piece choir. I was sitting up in the balcony, right in the center, front row. And it blew my mind.”
Given Morouse’s life in music, it probably takes something special to blow his mind. A native of the Pittsburgh, Pa. area, be began playing professionally at the age of 14, eventually going out on the road with jazz great Art Blakey. In 1972, he replaced David Sanborn in Stevie Wonder’s band Wonderlove, becoming its bandleader and touring internationally with Wonder for the next three years. His resume, which can be found at www.dennymorouse.com , features a very impressive list of credits studded with names that include Astrud Gilberto, Etta James, Aerosmith, Taj Mahal, and Michael Jackson, as well as the soundtracks for the films Animal House and Fame.
The cover tunes on his new CD, subtitled “Samba and Jazz,” reflects the breadth of Morouse’s musical experience, including, in addition to the two Ellicott vocals mentioned earlier, “The Nearness of You,” “When I Fall in Love,” “Tenor Madness” by Sonny Rollins, and “Naima” by John Coltrane.
The disc’s 74 minutes of music also features six Morouse compositions, including the title song, “Dancing with You after You’ve Gone.”
“The song was written because I had a nephew I lost when he was 25 in 1992 or ’93,” he says. ”I couldn’t really come up with a name for it until I was living in Hawaii, playing a two-night gig at an open-air taco joint every Friday and Saturday. I’m terrible about coming up with titles sometimes, so I played it, and I asked the audience [to give the song a name]. There was this young lady, she was French, on sabbatical, and she was there with her boyfriend – they used to come every weekend. As she was leaving, she wrote on a napkin, `Dancing with You after You’ve Gone.’ I thought that was a great, sort of poetic, name.”
Sadly, the title turned out to have another application as well. The disc’s executive producer, William Winter, died just a few weeks after the CD’s release, and Morouse notes that the CD is dedicated to him.
“Working with William Winter was great, he understood the creative process and the importance of making sure the album was beautifully crafted. I’ll miss him greatly and be grateful that we became friends,” says Morouse,
The Denny Morouse CD release party, featuring Morouse on saxophone, William Buthod on piano, and Annie Ellicott on vocals, is set to begin at 5p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6 at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St. Copies of Dancing with You after You’ve Gone will be on sale at that time.
Tickets can be purchased at the depot, from www.myticketoffice.com, or by calling Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609. General admission is $15, reserved table seating $20. Seniors and Jazz Hall members are admitted for $10, and high school and junior high students for $5.
The show is a part of the Jazz Hall’s 2013 Autumn Concert Series.
The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.
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