Steve Morrison Live at the Basement

Craig Schwarze

Steve Morrison has developed a reputation for stylish, entertaining jazz, and his gigs at The Basement, one of Sydney's classic venues, have become very popular. His latest album attempts to capture this live experience on CD, and it succeeds very well.
 
The album daringly starts with two instrumental tracks, Sonny Rollin's "St Thomas", and Morrison's own "The Penguin". The music is enthusiastic and lively, and the quality of the recording is good. Morrison's band is tight, but there is the flexibility and rawness that you expect in a live performance.
 
The third track introduces singer Jeff Duff, performing a relaxed version of perennial favourite, "Mr Bojangles". Duff is one of Australia's most enduring and experienced vocalists, and his performance fully warrants this veteran reputation.
 
There is some good variety on the album, from energetic funk to cool, cool soul. The tracks are pretty much evenly split between instrumentals and lyrical songs. And Morrison hasn't tried to dumb down the music either " some of the tracks are over 8 minutes long.
 
One of the great challenges of a live album is capturing the venue ambience. This is especially important with jazz, where the audience interact with the music, clapping and cheering the solos. Morrison's engineer has done a good job in this respect. The crowd is present but not overpowering, reflecting the intimacy of The Basement.
 
In his day job, Morrison is an Anglican minister, but the album generally avoids overt religion. His signature instrumental of "Amazing Grace" is one exception. The other is a cover of Billy Preston's "That's the way God planned it" "
 

How men be so greedy
When there’s so much left
All things that God given
And they all have been blessed

That’s the way God planned it
That’s the way God wants it to be
That’s the way God planned it
That’s the way God wants it to be

 
It's a gentle, anthemic, soul classic, about being content with what we have, and trusting God in all things. A wonderful track, and a real highlight of the show.
 
This is a very fine album which will have broad appeal beyond jazz enthusiasts. Recommended.