Ghost Jazz Trio surges to the fore
After decades leading numerous jazz fusion bands, guitarist/composer/producer James Morgan’s decision to launch his own brand of “West Coast Laid Back Jazz” via the Ghost Jazz Trio has been a spectacular success, including two ‘Best Jazz Album of the Year’ nominations from the San Diego Music Awards.
Recently upgraded from a trio to a funky, hard-poppin’ quintet, the latest full-length jam Groovin’ Smooth is an infectious, rhythm-centric showcase for Morgan’s fluid style and the natural wood vibe of his Pat Metheny hollow body signature guitar.
Everything is colored, of course, by the skillful and adventurous ensemble of seasoned musicians featuring legendary guitarist (album co-writer, arranger and producer) Dean Brown (Bob James, David Sanborn), bassist Nathan Brown (Bob James, Eric Marienthal, Brian Simpson), keyboardist Chase Pado and holding down the groove, Tres Hodgens on drums. Engineered and recorded by Grammy winner Alan Sanderson (Elton John, Michael Jackson, Rolling Stones).
James Morgan grew up in northern California, and as a teen started listening to Return to Forever, John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Miles Davis, inspiring him to take up the guitar. In the late seventies James was fortunate enough to take guitar lessons from Bill Connors of Return to Forever fame.
He lived in Santa Cruz, CA and drove to Half Moon Bay weekly to take lessons whereby he formed a close friendship with Bill. James went on to become a bandleader throughout the following decades, writing his own compositions whilst forming various jazz Fusion bands along the way, including his band Absolute Black, which was an opening act for singer Mickey Thomas of the band Starship in the mid 90s. 2009 to 2016 his jazz fusion band Dialog Project achieved quick acclaim, being nominated for best jazz album ‘Artistry of Jazz Fusion’ and opening for such acts as Allan Holdsworth, Dokken, bassist Stu Hamm and others.
More recently he created his own genre of jazz music he calls “West Coast Laid Back Jazz” that is both relaxing and interesting. James formed the dynamic, and mysteriously named Ghost Jazz Trio, in 2017 performing locally in San Diego, CA for corporate and private events as well as small music venues and restaurants, building the GJT brand awareness. Their 2020 album ‘Invisible Time’ was a complex and synergetic production that achieved critical acclaim and outstanding success in a short period of time, culminating in being nominated for ‘Best Jazz Album of The Year’ by the 2021 San Diego Music Awards and was featured on more than 150 radio station playlists worldwide, debuting in the Top 100 on the smooth jazz charts.
The second album “On the Level” released in 2021 featuring guest artist, guitarist Patrick Yandall. The album is an eclectic and spirited journey including elements of vibrant R&B, Smooth Jazz, Funk and Jazz Swing with some complex and intricate jazz arrangements which will demand attention, peak your imagination and raise the awareness of this talented and innovative Southern Californian trio. The 2022 album ‘Dreams Above’ is an album that James Morgan had envisioned for many years as a concept to combine Jazz and classical symphonic strings in a smooth jazz groove format.
The concept for the 2023 album release ‘Groovin Smooth’ is to create a groove format that features James Morgan’s unique playing style, tone and the natural wood sound of James’s hollowbody Pat Metheny signature guitar. All of the songs on the album were recorded with the full band in the studio, adding some overdubs and ear candy to enhance the listening experience.
Little or no effects were used recording the guitar, to showcase the natural sound and beauty of the wood. James uses Thomastik flat wound strings and plays his guitar through a Roland Artist Blues Cube combo amp with 1 x12 speaker and his old Zoom G3X effects unit, using a slight reverb for the album and adding a bit of delay for live performances.
…host of the Just Jazz radio show, writer, and occasional voice over artist.