At the dawn of the Reagan years, LA jazz pianist Nate Morgan recorded his first album for Nimbus West. "Journey Into Nigritia" portrays an artist marked by the icons of his day, and striving for reinvention. Although he came from a solid jazz background, coming up through the Pan Afrikan People's Arkestra, Morgan found more exciting work with pop bands in the seventies, including glory years with Rufus w/Chaka Khan. On "Journey Into Nigritia", Morgan re-embraces jazz. Included in the band are Jeff Littleton on bass, Fritz Wise on drums, and Dadisi Komolafe on alto sax.
The collection opens with the Trane-ish "Mrafu". Komolafe blasts off in short order, and while the modal chording recalls Tyner, Morgan shows flashes of the nimble loquacious gift that define him. While Alice Coltrane incense perfumes "Morning Prayer", Morgan's devotional sincerity and personnel expression triumph.
Suitably complex with yearning minors, "Mother" features the trio performing a memorable composition. Littleton's deep-note sustain contrasts Wise's shimmering cymbals, while Morgan tells heart-wrenching truth. With a somewhat solemn theme, "He Left Us A Song" regularly bursts through into straight-ahead fast break sprints up and down the court. The unexpected "Study In C.T." offers an homage to Cecil Taylor and Morgan's musical roots with free improvisations on a dense and spiky theme. The exhilarating result has Morgan exploring his own way, with a winking slinging of jagged bass chords halfway through.
While a quarter century's experience has nurtured Morgan's prodigious gifts beyond this ambitious debut, "Journey Into Nigritia" offers enjoyable insights into his artistic evolution, while adding another precious title to the discography of one of the most woefully under-recorded greats of our time.
Review by Rex Butters
Nate Morgan: Journey Into Nigritia