A week after the release of the album “The Most Wonderful Time,” brothers Matthew and James G. Morales reflected on the impact their education in Glen Cove schools had on them as musicians.
City Councilman Rocco Totino grew up with Matthew, and played trumpet with him in the Glen Cove High School jazz band. “We haven’t seen each other in a while, but we keep in touch on social media,” Totino said. “It’s cool that we get to converse via social media and we get to see how our careers are going as well.”
At the time, the jazz band was directed by music teacher Richard Roselli, who, Matthew said, encouraged the Moraleses to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“I’m really thankful for the music education we got to have in Glen Cove,” James said. “I had some of the greatest music teachers in the world. I still think about them all the time. All of them just played such a deep role in my development as a musician.”
Now living in Los Angeles, the Moraleses operate the production company The Eleven, and are enjoying watching the album’s streams on music platforms like Apple Music and Spotify rise, with the total number of streams over one million. The album was released in collaboration with Los Angeles vocal coach Stevie Mackey, who has worked with artists like Selena Gomez, Jennifer Lopez, Fergie, Kelly Roland and Lenny Kravitz, among others.
The collection of Christmas music features the Morales brothers, Lopez and JoJo, among other musicians.
Matthew, 33, plays trumpet and James, 36, plays drums and the piano. James and Matthew were also the executive producer.
“Being able to create this body of work with my older brother has been such an incredible experience,” Matthew said. “It was a lot of work, but I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else. I’m super-grateful and excited we were able to build this together.”
“We’re literally just flying through the charts and getting play-listed,” James added. “We have Diane Keaton tweeting and making comments about the album. It’s unbelievable. It’s been an unbelievable experience.”
The Moraleses are especially excited about the fact that the album was produced independently. “We are the label,” James said. “We are the record company.”
Matthew said this is a very exciting time in his life. “Given the landscape of music and just how people are creating and consuming music, there’s been so much power in the independent artist,” he said. “This is the first time we’re really exploring [and] creating [an album] from scratch.”
James met Mackey on Lopez’s “It’s My Party” concert tour. James, who played piano on the tour, was blown away by Mackey, who was Lopez’s vocal coach.
“[James] came to me with the idea, actually, and he was talking about creating a Christmas album with Stevie, and I’m usually hesitant,” Matthew said. “But I did not hesitate one bit. I said absolutely. I think that’s an incredible album idea.”
Production on the album began before the coronavirus pandemic spread, Matthew explained. “When it finally did hit and we were working on this album, we knew how much more it meant,” he said. “Given everyone’s spirits and just uncertainty, we knew we wanted to make the biggest independent Christmas album ever and really reach people this holiday season.”
The Moraleses started their production company in 2011, next to Madison Square Garden. In 2018 they packed up the studio and moved west to Burbank, Calif. The company has produced music by Meghan Trainor, Karmin, Sean Kingston, Cher Lloyd, Celine Dion, among other artists.
Both Matthew and James said their favorite song on the new album is “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” which features Lopez. “It gets in touch with our roots,” Matthew said. “We grew up playing in jazz band, and ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ . . . has the big-band feel with jazz infused into it. Just from a nostalgic and a place of getting back into our jazz roots, I would say that song really takes the cake.”
Roselli, their former teacher, said he has been following the Morales brothers for some time, and takes pride in their achievements of. He said he was fortunate to have taught them.
James said that Roselli introduced him to the idea of music production. “Here I am, fast-forward all these years later, living in Los Angeles, making records with my brother,” he said. “We played jazz band together, we’re making records together and working with artists across the world. It’s just a really humbling experience. We’ve come such a long way.”
Told of the impact the brothers said he had on them, Roselli said, “Flip the coin. I was lucky to have the opportunity to teach and get to work with these really talented musicians. At my day job, I felt very fortunate I had these kids to work with, instead of having to go to work and put in the nine-to-five.”
Matthew Morales said that another musical inspiration was their father, who played in salsa bands across New York City in the 1970s. Growing up in Glen Cove was also inspiring to Matthew. “I think there’s care in the city,” he said. “There’s a lot of love, and there’s acceptance. I really just feel like it’s a unique place.”
Totino added that it’s great to say you’re from Glen Cove when the Moraleses and other successes, such as the singer Ashanti, grew up in the city. “It shows that Glen Cove is a great place to grow up, [and] to go to school,” Totino said.