Dr. Michael Torregano, Morning Inspiration (KWS/Concord)

Like so many New Orleans musicians, Dr. Michael Torregano covers the stylistic waterfront. His influences include Earth, Wind & Fire, The Spinners and Michael Jackson as well as Oscar Peterson, George Benson, Al Jarreau and Miles Davis. A pianist, composer and singer adept at traditional jazz and standards, Torregano sweetens Morning Inspiration, his fifth album, with pop and rhythm-and-blues. 

Besides playing piano, electric keyboards, kalimba and singing, Torregano composed, produced, engineered and mixed Morning Inspiration. The title song sets the album’s feel-good tone with melodic pop-jazz and a smooth-jazz groove. Torregano and Alex Geddes—the saxophonist who performs regularly with Torregano—ably fill the album’s dominant soloist roles. A multi-instrumentalist, Geddes moves to flute for “Live Wires,” an instrument well-suited for this Latin-tinged piece propelled by bassist Wilbur Thompson and drummer Chris Guccione. Another Latin-accented piece, “Mojitos After Dark,” incorporates Afro-Cuban rhythms, Ashlin Parker’s trumpet, Geddes’ sax and Mike Loupe’s well-cast guitar. 

The punchy, sassy horn parts Geddes and Parker play in “The Groove” almost make big-band impact. A pop-R&B-jazz piece, “The Groove,” showcases Torregano’s composing chops and his electric keyboard playing, heard in call-and-response with Geddes’ sax. 

The versatile Torregano moves to a mellow atmosphere for the ballad “Midnight Creep” and mystical ambiance for the album’s most vocal-laden track, “Ancestor’s Call.” These contrasting pieces and Morning Inspiration in total reveal Torregano’s versatility, bright musical personality and abundance of inspiration.

—John Wirt