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Meg Morley Trio

Journey Through Home

by Ian Mann

October 03, 2022


Excellent writing from the leader and some superb musicianship. Strong melodies and clever rhythmic ideas are enhanced by the quality and vitality of the playing of a highly interactive trio.

Meg Morley Trio

“Journey Through Home”

(33 Records 33jazz288)

Meg Morley – piano, Richard Sadler – double bass, Emiliano Caroselli – drums
plus guest Huseyin Atasever - baglama

First released in June 2022 “Journey Through Home” is the second album release from this trio led by the Australian born, London based pianist and composer Meg Morley.

Morley’s playing first came to my attention in 2017 with the self released EP “Through The Hours”, which featured five self composed solo piano performances. This was a very enjoyable recording that combined strong melodies with adventurous rhythms and harmonies and won the approval of Morley’s fellow pianist Kit Downes. Review here;

At the time of the EP’s release she was also working on a full length trio album with Sadler and Caroselli, this emerging later in the year under the title “Can’t Get Started”. This was another excellent recording with Morley’s writing embracing a variety of jazz styles and with the trio members achieving a high level of musical interaction. Review here;

Both reviews of Morley’s previous releases included biographical details that I have again lifted and which are reproduced below, with a few additions sourced from the biography on Morley’s own website.

Meg Morley is an Australian born pianist and composer now living and working in London. She is a versatile musician who studied classical music at the University of Southern Queensland where her tutors included the classical pianists Wendy Lorenz and Roy Howat and the composer Gerard Brophy.  She performed as a classical piano soloist with the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra and as a composer has had her works performed by the Darling Downs Trio.

Morley subsequently moved to Melbourne where she completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Jazz Improvisation under the guidance of Andrea Keller and Dr. Timothy Stevens. Following this she taught piano and improvisation at two prestigious Melbourne grammar schools as well as performing and playing for the Australian Ballet and its associated Ballet School.

In 2010 Morley re-located to London and secured a full time post as pianist with the English National Ballet School. She also found time to perform with leading musicians from other genres including jazz vocalist Tina May and was at one time a member of the leading UK samba band Rhythms of The City.

Morley has continued to work with various dance companies including a stint as Resident Musician at the London Contemporary Ballet Theatre.  As a composer for dance she has also collaborated with a number of different choreographers for a variety of live performances. has s a composer for dance she has collaborated with various amateur and professional choreographers for live performances.

More recently she became the resident pianist at the Kennington Bioscope, a silent film organisation based at the London Cinema Museum. This has led to numerous other engagements playing at film festivals in the UK and mainland Europe, among them the Flatpack Festival in Birmingham. The members of the trio have also been involved in some of her film projects and a glance at her website suggests that this aspect of her work continues to be one of her main areas of focus at the present time.

 n 2014 Morley released her début jazz album “Searching Not Finding” with the trio MIA Panboola, a London based ensemble founded in 2011 which teamed her with the vocalists Ileana Di Camillo and Antonio De Lillis. The album, comprised entirely of original material, also included contributions from both Sadler and Caroselli plus trumpeter John Cervantes. Morley then continued to work with Sadler and Caroselli in a conventional jazz piano trio setting,  the three establishing an excellent rapport that found full expression on the “Can’t Get Started” album.

Richard Sadler first came to my attention as the bassist with the Neil Cowley Trio and he appeared on that group’s first three albums, recordings that made a considerable impression on the UK jazz scene and beyond. More recently he has been the co-leader of the group -isq, alongside vocalist Irene Serra. Sadler has also recorded with pianist John Crawford and saxophonist Aldevis Tibaldi and as a session musician has worked with drummer Sam Kelly of the band Cymande and with the great Ray Davies (of Kinks fame).

I must admit to knowing rather less about the Rome born Caroselli who honed his percussive talents in Cuba, studying and living in Havana for three years. After establishing himself on the Italian jazz scene Caroselli moved to London in 2012 and has played with a variety of bands across a range of jazz styles including Latin and Brazilian. Among the musicians he has worked with in the UK are trumpeter Quentin Collins, saxophonist Renato D’Aiello, vocalist Anjali Perin and singer/songwriter/guitarist Sarah Gillespie.

“Journey Through Home” features eight new original compositions from the pen of Morley and these pieces continue to reveal her growing maturity as a writer. Her involvement in performing and writing for dance and film appears to have influenced her composing style and many of these pieces display a pronounced ‘cinematic’ quality.  Her gift for melody is combined with an astute sense of dynamics with several of these pieces exhibiting a strong narrative arc. Guest Huseyin Atasever adds baglama to the track “e-Gnosis”, helping to give it a pronounced Middle Eastern flavour.

But that comes later, the album commences with the near nine minute title track which opens with a series of unaccompanied piano arpeggios hinting at the influence of minimalism. Morley adds a dash of melody and is eventually joined by bass and drums, with Sadler also fulfilling a melodic function before returning to a more orthodox bass role. The music continues to unfold slowly and organically, gradually building on that arpeggiated foundation. Subsequently there’s an injection of urgency and pace with Caroselli’s drums coming to the fore above a now swirling arpeggiated piano figure.  The commotion eventually subsides and Morley solos more expansively, driven by increasingly propulsive bass and drums. This is a piece full of dynamic peaks and troughs and the pace reduces again with Sadler’s melodic double bass solo - as on the previous album he gets far more space with the Morley trio than he ever did with the Cowley group. The energy levels then surge once more with Caroselli coming to the fore again as an integral part of this highly interactive and democratic trio. The title of this opening track is most appropriate, there’s a real sense of having been taken on a journey by the trio, with the composition having passed through a series of distinct but related musical episodes.

“Try To Be Free” is more loosely structured, its title suggesting that the trio are experimenting in a ‘free jazz’ context. Once again it’s a highly interactive group performance with Morley’s shards of piano melodies answered by Caroselli’s rich vocabulary of drum sounds as Sadler plays more of an anchoring role. The dialogue between piano and drums becomes increasingly animated on a piece that neatly straddles the boundary between composition and improvisation.

“How Not To Graciously Accept A Gift”  opens with a short passage of unaccompanied piano and is generally less frenetic, with lyrical solos from both Sadler on double bass and Morley at the piano. Caroselli deploys brushes in the early stages, before switching to sticks as Morley’s solo begins to gather intensity. There’s a subtle element of bluesiness about the music and a hint of Monk like humour too, a quality that also informed the trio’s previous album.

“Weightless” is an appropriately airy ballad like composition that again opens with a passage of solo piano, taking its direction from Morley’s opening arpeggiated motif. Caroselli again exhibits a deft touch with the brushes as the piece develops and there’s another delightfully melodic bass solo from Sadler.

The aforementioned “e-Gnosis” introduces the sound of the baglama, a lute like Turkish stringed instrument that I have previously seen deployed by guitarist and composer Nicolas Meier. Played here by Huseyin Atasever its distinctive tones introduce the piece in an unaccompanied passage, the baglama eventually joined by piano, bass and drums.  The presence of Atasever and his instrument continue to give the piece a Middle Eastern flavour throughout with Caroselli’s use of small percussion adding to the exotic atmosphere. The feel is maintained even during Morley’s piano solos as she exchanges ideas with Atasever. It’s a dynamic track that brings the best out of both soloists, plus the supremely flexible rhythm team of Sadler and Caroselli.

It’s back to the core trio for “Succession to a Song”, which introduces something of the musical humour of the trio’s previous album with woozy melodies and shuffling grooves making the piece sound like some kind of subverted jazz standard. Morley’s solo probes intelligently, underscored by Sadler’s meaty bass lines and Caroselli’s martial rhythms, the drummer coming even more into focus with a feature towards the close.

The intriguingly titled “Dancing Through Culture Wars” is something of a ‘mini epic’, shifting through several changes of direction during the course of its seven and a half minutes. Introduced by Caroselli at the drums the riff based opening stages are not entirely dissimilar to the Cowley Trio’s approach. Morley later solos more expansively but the essential energy of the piece remains, as does that sense of musical humour. Sadler is featured on the bass during a more freely structured episode mid-tune, which subsequently opens up into a dynamic closing section with Morley and Caroselli involved in a series of vigorous piano and drum exchanges.

The album concludes the wistful “To Belonging”, effectively a melodic and lyrical ‘musical epilogue’. It’s a beautiful way to end an excellent album.

“Journey Through Home” represents another impressive offering from the Meg Morley Trio that incorporates some excellent writing from the leader and some superb playing from all three musicians. Strong melodies and clever rhythmic ideas are enhanced by the quality and vitality of the playing as the trio tackle a variety of jazz styles, but with Morley’s classical background, plus her work in dance and cinema also evident. Guest Atasever makes a particularly distinctive contribution and the track upon which he appears represents one of the album’s stand out cuts.

It’s taken me a long time to get round to reviewing this album but the wait has been well worth it. Morley’s is a talent that is well worthy of greater recognition and she’s an artist who I’d love to have the opportunity of seeing performing live, particularly in the company of this exceptional trio.

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