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I have played the guitar since 1955 when I was 15 years old. I soon became fascinated by the incredible artistry of the great guitar virtuosos in all styles of music. I was a jazz guitarist - with a deep love of both jazz and classical music. This love also extended to South American music. In 1979 I knew well the recordings of guitarists Laurindo Almeida, Baden Powell, Luis Bonfá, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Eduardo Falú, Atahualpa Yupanqui, Jorge Cardoso and others. However, much to my amazement now, I had at that time never heard of Jorge Morel. All that changed after hearing Jorge play in concert for around 30 minutes at the NAMM 1979 convention in Chicago. I was at the annual NAMM dinner and concert in the company of my late friend guitarist Ivor Mairants. We sat at a table with luthier Jose Ramirez III, guitar string-maker Juan Orozco and others. The half hour concert spot before Jorge’s solo guitar recital was played by a 16-piece excellent big band in the style of the Count Basie orchestra. I remember commenting to Ivor what ‘bad’ programming it was to put a solo guitarist on after such a great big band. Well. I was wrong. I was privileged to hear some of the most amazing guitar playing and wonderful guitar arrangements that I had ever heard. Jorge’s recital received rapturous applause from the very large audience. And so it was Jorge Morel entered my life. As it turned out Ivor knew Jorge and Juan Orozco was his friend – so the great guitarist joined us at our table after his concert. I took the opportunity there and then to ask Jorge if he would like to make a recording for my new 'Guitar Master Records' label in the UK. As they say - the rest is now history.
Within a short period of time Jorge was in the UK for the first of what would be many visits and I produced 'Virtuoso South American Guitar' the first of his three amazing solo guitar recordings for Guitar Masters Records. I also presented Jorge in concert in the first of many recitals that he would give over the next few years in London and in several other UK cities. We became firm friends and from that time on were in regular contact. I also had the privilege to publish 15 volumes of Jorge’s original music and arrangements with the title ‘Virtuoso South American Guitar’ through my 'Ashley Mark Publishing Company'. Jorge was also a valued contributor to my monthly magazine 'Classical Guitar'.
I will always treasure the memory of the many times we spent together both in New York and the UK. I was delighted to introduce Jorge to David Russell, Mario Maccaferri, Barry Mason, Laurindo Almeida, Bill Bay, Juan Martin, Maria Isabel Siewers and other guitar notables. I am confident Jorge Morel will live on through the great treasure trove of original compositions, guitar arrangements and historic recordings that he has given to us.
- Maurice J. Summerfield,
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“Jorge deserves all the praise and recognition. He was a good friend and a gentleman, as well as being a great guitarist and imaginative composer. I have always enjoyed playing his music.”
- David Russell
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In this year, 2021 while the world continues to fight a pandemic, the classical guitar has lost one of its most representative figures. Jorge Morel was a true champion of this multifaceted instrument and left us a very important legacy both as an interpreter and as a composer. I met Jorge personally in Poland in the 80s. It was there in Krakow that we were able to talk for the first time and this meeting ended with a beautiful composition dedicated to The Assad Brothers, the duo I have with my brother Odair.
Named Rhapsodie for two brothers, this piece mixes passages of South American music spiced with North American blues in the Gershwin fashion. We had this piece in repertoire for a good couple of years and we played it many times, always with great public receptivity. Unfortunately due to the type of career we had at the time, where our guitar duo started recording with several other artists, it ended up not giving us the chance to leave it recorded on disk.
For some years we kept in touch and I can say that Jorge was present in my personal life especially in the year 1994. That was the year that my wife Brigitte died at 38 years of age. Jorge called to comfort me during this very difficult period and told me about the similarity of our cases since he had also lost his wife around the same age I was at that time. Jorge was a good 20 years older than me and I saw him as an example to follow. His model of interpreter who also becomes a composer was a great example to be followed. I can say that, even indirectly, his existence made my steps end up going in the same direction as well.
The world has lost an admirable being but has gained a great legacy left by him. For our large international community of guitarists this legacy is of great power, wealth and importance.
- Sergio Assad
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It’s difficult for me to talk about Jorge because I miss him so much. The last time I had the pleasure of seeing him was two years ago at my recital in Carnegie Hall. He was sitting in the front row and smiling as he did so frequently.
I met Jorge when I was about 16 years old in New York when I used to spend almost every night at the Stan Hope hotel where he used to have a regular showcase. Even though during my many visits to New York I had a hotel suite in Manhattan, in the evening I used to take the subway and go to his apartment in Queens. I would sit on the sofa and he would play for me. He was always in good humor and knew how to have a great time. I will always cherish those moments with him. He was not only my friend but I can truly say that he was more like my brother. We shared not only music but lots of laughs together.
Thinking back on his playing, I can honestly say that no one ever has played the guitar better than him. He was a genius. Through the years he composed many pieces for the Romeros which we all cherish. I’m sure that as I write this, wherever he is, he’s smiling and playing the guitar. I love you Jorge, and I admire you completely.
- Ángel Romero
Portrait by René Smits
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It must have been in the Spring of 1991 that we met for the very first time. At that festival in Kraków, Poland, Jorge was surely one of the favorites, a real Master.
Later, each time I came to NY, we always met together for a drink or for diner, or for an after concert, Jorge, me, and his best friend, the late Tony Acosta who represented Jorge. Tony was the wonderful manager of one of the best meeting places for guitarists in NYC: ‘Luthier'.
Jorge was the most humane and loyal friend imaginable, an example. Also his love for music and art in general was a big part of life.
The last time I saw Jorge was 2011, if I am not mistaken at the Long Island Festival. And I remember him saying ‘life has not always been kind to me, you know… ‘, as he had so much pain, for so many years.
We kept in contact by mail or phone after he moved to Florida, to be closer to his much loved daughter. He was a proud loving father!
In between Jorge came to visit Corsendonk guitar festival in Belgium, and that was a moment of joy, to have him with us every day for a whole week. A remarkable person with a golden heart and a pure soul. Such a kind and good person, I seldom met.
And he enjoyed eating good food with a nice wine or beer… chatting with colleagues, friends students.
My father, René Smits, an artist without equal, painted some beautiful works during that period.
We had conversations that showed great confidence and a past that was ever present, the loss of his wife. Memory was very much a part of being.
The Staccato-piece he wrote and dedicated to me, was inspired by a NYC-concert organized by Ben Verdery, in the presence of Jim and Janet D'Addario. At my arrival in Belgium, this piece welcomed me. What a treasure.
I will be grateful forever to have known this fantastic and exceptional composer, artist, performer and friend. Through his musical legacy he stays always with us.
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It is impossible for me to add any more praise than what has already been said.
We had several things in common, the same name, being Argentinians, soloists and composers, sufficient circumstances to facilitate and nurture our close friendship. We met in communist Poland, a country that had a special predilection for Latin American music to the point that there were Polish vocal and instrumental groups that were professionally dedicated to its interpretation and dissemination.
In that extraordinary atmosphere, it was not strange that our concerts for guitar and orchestra were premiered and played, as well as all kinds of solos and duets. Our relationship never had the slightest hint of rivalry - quite the opposite. We played improvised duets in concert, we shared lunches and dinners, we walked together, we talked about different topics rarely linked to music, since it occupied all the hours of our existence. What we wanted was to forget her a bit and be able to live the shared moments intensely.
In Krakow, at one of our meetings, his concert coincided with his birthday, May 9th. How can I forget if my father was born the same day.
With absolute discretion and making sure nothing would come to his knowledge, I purchased a box of six bottles of wine that I conveniently hid behind the scenes. After his program was over, the audience began to ask him to play more. When he finished his first encore, I stormed onto the stage, put one of the bottles in his free hand, and disappeared in the same way. Paralyzed by surprise and not knowing what to do with the bottle in the face of the fiery applause and the uproar of the audience, he placed it next to him. After the second encore I burst in again, like a ghost, with another bottle of wine that I put in his left hand. This time I addressed the audience saying that it was Jorge's birthday and that, knowing his love for good wines, these bottles were my gift. And I disappeared. People were as or happier than him. With the end of the third encore, I appeared once more with another bottle. The same happened with the fourth and fifth encores, so that Jorge found himself surrounded by bottles. The sixth time I came to his side I whispered in his ear: “Jorge, you can keep playing for me, but I warn you that I ran out of bottles." Then he laughed out loud. The viewers, who didn't know what the hell he had said to make him react that way, also broke out into laughs and long live Jorge, I don't know if after this concert he was able to celebrate another birthday with the same success and surrounded by so much affection and the unconditional admiration of his audience.
On another occasion he confessed to me that his manager wanted to increase the number and frequency of his concerts, but he was hesitant to accept due to some discomfort in his spine and he did not like the idea of walking around to another and that it takes time to compose or arrange. When I asked him what his manager's reasons were, he replied: Because he wants me to be one of the most famous guitarists in the world. So I said to him “What for, if you already are?
When an existence comes to an end, the memory, the work and the exemplarity remain alive, which in the case of Jorge Morel are enormous. For that, and much more, it will remain with us forever.
- Jorge Cardoso
Arles, France, April 15, 2nd Year of the Coronavirus
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Jorge Morel: Master and friend
A fundamental and irreplaceable pillar of the Ibero-American guitar, Jorge Morel is the milestone figure that defines the evolution of our instrument in two stages: before and after. His loss leaves a difficult vacuum to fill, as his career as a performer, composer and arranger was the bridge, transcendent and unique, that unified the freshness and imagination of the vernacular musics of the Americas with the rigor, virtuosity and refinement of classical tradition. His legacy, as concert and recording artist and composer, is one-of-a-kind, for its vigorous brilliance, its power of seduction and its artistic integrity.
Since my first meeting with the Master, in the early 1980s, his art and friendship were for me inexhaustible sources of inspiration and wisdom, culminating, almost 20 years ago, when he honored me by inviting me to record with him a selection of his wonderful duo arrangements of milongas and tangos, from Troilo to Piazzolla, for the CD Two to Tango, produced by the always remembered Tony Acosta for his Luthier label. Unforgettable days, immersed in music, laughter and asado de tira. This re-encounter was the last one we had in person...
As a successful composer, we find a large number of works commissioned by almost all the great guitarists of our time, and therefore dedicated to them, but the amazing and admirable thing is the amount of works, not commissioned, written for friends and colleagues, for "the love of the Art", without any interest apart from the pure pleasure of creative work, in homage to Friendship, whose value, I know from experience, was second in importance only to the one he found in his art. His benevolence, generosity and affability, his nobility of spirit, are the qualities that those of us who loved him well, as great artist and friend, will miss in his absence, although palpable in each of the notes of his catalogue, an incomparable and enduring monument to the Guitarra Latina.
- Ricardo Iznaola
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Jorge Morel died at the age of 90. A wonderful, good man, full of warmth and sense of humor, sensitive musician, composer with a head full of ideas, arranger and guitarist. I owe him a lot, we shared many years of traveling together, concerts in Poland, England, Germany, Argentina, TV and radio recordings. I was hoping to visit him in time and have a drink of his favorite Okocim. Unfortunately I did not make it. Jorge was like a father to me.
- Krzysztof Pelech
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I remember the first time that I had a conversation with Maurice Summerfield, at that time Director of Classical Guitar Magazine. In that occasion, we talked about his most successful publications. I was curious to know what work was the most sold by Ashley Mark, the Publishing company that he directed. He answered undoubtedly: “ Danza Brasilera by Jorge Morel " and added: “ everyone wants to play it."
I give my recognition to composers who wrote pieces that everyone wants to play, those pieces that we keep close in our hearts and that Audiences will continuously be celebrating with applauses.
Thank you for your life and your work, Great Maestro, Jorge Morel.
- Berta Rojas
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Maestro Jorge Morel, admirable Guitarist, Arranger and Argentinian Composer of a great personality and creativity, I will always remember him.
- Ernesto Cordero
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Morel was like a father figure to Elina and me! He was a friend, a confidant, the voice of wisdom! He always did so in a way that was kind, nurturing, and made you feel that he cared about you and meant every word. I believe he made the guitar community feel the same way!
- René Izquierdo
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Jorge Morel was a dear friend, a great musician and rare person. For the longest time I had the pleasure of playing his beautiful music and fantastic arrangements that were made even more beautiful by his non stop generosity and kindness. The guitar world and our society has lost a legend.
Jorge you will be missed and cherished forever.
- Tali Roth
The events of the day, as the pageantry unfolded in the UK for Prince Phillip’s funeral, remind us that the guitar kingdom has also recently lost a great prince; Jorge Morel. He was a people’s prince, not bound to the sometimes rigid traditions of the regal classical music world. His guitar and his music would resound just as lively in jazz clubs as in the great halls of the world. And much as he respected and loved the monarch of his day, Don Andrés Segovia, he followed his own heart when it came to the music he wrote, the music he arranged and the music he played with such virtuosity. Citizen of the world, his musical repertoire embraced popular music from his native Argentina as well as American influences and Caribbean styles due to his love for Puerto Rico, his one-time home.
Jorge was a true gentleman, never speaking ill of anyone and always willing to mentor younger players of all levels of talent and of fame. He was not a rebel; his unusual path of a career came about as much by design as by necessity. He was a working musician with a child to support and he worked very hard indeed. The fact he succeeded is now seen as inevitable due to his enormous gifts, but in his day it was probably not a sure thing.
On a personal level, Jorge was a Guitar Hero of mine, long before the concept became fashionable; I grew up in Puerto Rico at the times when he was a regular presence on national television due to his pre-recorded performances. Sometimes between programs and to fill up a space - in the less tightly scheduled days of early TV - Jorge would pop-up playing some fantastic arrangement or one of his own pieces and I was blown away but the artistry of this man on the small screen.
When I came to know him personally, upon setting my residence in NYC, he became a true friend and mentor. I had the pleasure of playing alongside Jorge for a concert at the university where I spent most of my teaching career and we also had a concert in his honor where many of his students performed his music. Jorge saw me through a low point in my musical life and encouraged me to record what became my second solo CD, recorded in the same studio and with the same engineer that he worked with, the talented Dante Lattanzi of Caelum Music Productions. I dedicated this CD to Jorge and included three of his beautiful compositions in it.
Jorge Morel may be gone physically but his memory and his music will live on in the fingers of young players and in the ears of happy audiences and he will soon take his rightful place in the pantheon of guitar royalty. May his example as a caring person also serve as a beacon along the way.
- Ana María Rosado
April 17, 2021
Jorge Morel: Creator. Pedagogue. Mentor. Virtuoso. Leader. Scholar. Artist. Friend. Above all, a True Gentleman.
- Laura Oltman & Michael Newman,
Phillipsburg, New Jersey, USA
I met Jorge Morel through our mutual friend Tony Acosta in New York. Several times Jorge had invited me, Tony, and several top-notch composers and musicians for a homemade Argentine dinner—steak chimichurri that was so amazingly delicious. Those evenings of wonderful food, argentine wine and music sharing will always live in my memory. I was especially enthralled with Jorge’s compositions. Some months later I went to my mailbox and found an envelope from Jorge. I opened it and was stunned to find handwritten sheet music, a tune entitled “A Dance for Muriel.” It was an inspiring process to sit down with those little dots on paper and figure out what he was saying to me in the music. Both “A Dance for Muriel” and Jorge's chimichurri recipe are contained in my new Acoustic Chef.
- Muriel Anderson
Jorge Morel's contribution to the music world is an output vast, original, and highly creative. He knew the guitar and how to write for it as well as anyone who has ever played the instrument…and how he could play it! He knew how to make the guitar sing, how to make you forget about the technique or the limitations of the fingers. When listening to Jorge play, you can simply enjoy amazingly beautiful music.
Jorge was truly a unique figure in the history of the guitar, someone who was equally comfortable on stage performing alongside the great classical, jazz, and flamenco musicians of his time, and equally admired and respected by legendary performers in all of those worlds. If I were to use poetic license to try to summarize him as a musician, I might describe him as having a virtuoso's hands, a classical mind, a jazz heart, and an ever-present Latin spirit.
Jorge possessed the same energy and joy as a person that you can hear in his music. He was a kind, generous man, and always humble despite his many accomplishments. In addition to his incredible output of original compositions, arrangements, numerous recordings, and a lifetime of performing, he also spent a great deal of time teaching and mentoring younger musicians. His legacy is that of one of the great figures in all of guitar history.
Thank you, Jorge, for providing so much inspiration to me and to so many others.
- Troy Gifford
The guitar world is saddened today by the loss of Jorge Morel. He was a prolific composer who provided so much repertoire to the instrument throughout his life.
As a colleague, I always respected and admired his professionalism, we played together and shared experiences, he unexpectedly wrote a composition for me called “Romántico y Allegro Ritmico “ which I cherished so much.
These past years I commissioned him to make music on an ongoing basis because I wanted him to believe that he still had the Muse that he feared losing. Evidently, after so much music he gave me, his Muse never left him, a reality that we all can thank to this day.
Aside from all these unique experiences that I’m grateful for, most importantly I speak as a friend. I truly miss hearing his resounding voice with that energy and passion he contemplated life. I miss the sense of humor that characterized him as little brushes that coloured his dark wounds in his personal life. I miss a pause at times with his eyes filled with the nostalgia of mixed memories, without words he touched my soul as I listened for endless hours.
He was an extremely sensitive man who truly cared for his friends and shared his wisdom in life, nurturing all of us.
Lately, when he always wished me well and expressed his concerns for my well-being saying goodbye, I always sensed that he poured his whole soul into his words.
My dear friend, te echaré mucho de menos.
- Virginia Luque