One of the greatest living classical guitarists and composers, Jorge Morel, turns 88 on May 9. Feliz cumpleaños, maestro!
He was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and took up the guitar at an early age, first learning the instrument from his father, who was an amateur guitarist (and a professional actor). He was admitted to a music school in Buenos Aires, where he studied with guitarist and composer Pablo Escobar, who also gave young Morel his first break—performing on a radio program when he was 16. He toured successfully around Central and South America for a number of years and first traveled to the U.S. in 1961. He lived in San Francisco for two years in the early ’60s, but soon settled in New York City (“because that’s where the work was,” he told John Duarte in an interview in the second issue of Classical Guitar (November/December 1982). In New York, he made his living playing gigs (including regular appearances at the Village Gate jazz club) and teaching. Through the years, too, he became a renowned arranger of Latin, South American, and American popular, Broadway, and jazz tunes for guitar, and also a composer of many original works, up to this day. His mid-1970s Suite del Sur was performed by the L.A. Philharmonic, and since then his works have been played by guitarists on every continent. He has put out numerous albums through the decades, as well, including several on the Guitar Masters imprint spearheaded by Classiocal Guitar founder and publisher for 30+ years, Maurice Summerfield. (A good starting point for those new to Morel is the Guitar Masters release The Very Best of Jorge Morel, if you can find it.)
These two substantial videos capture Morel many years apart. The first (date unknown) is marred by audio imperfections, but ii definitely worth checking out to see what a skilled and flashy player he was. The second, from 1989, finds him performing some his own works, as well as his much-loved medley of tunes from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.