Joe Morris

Camera

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Some jazz improvisers prefer to have the same combination of instruments on most or all of their albums. There are acoustic pianists who only want to play in a traditional piano trio consisting of piano, bass, and drums; there are trumpeters who stick to a trumpet-sax-rhythm section format and want nothing more and nothing less. Other improvisers, however, like having different combinations of instruments on different albums, and Joe Morris is a perfect example. The avant-garde guitarist has led a wide variety of groups over the years; Camera finds him leading a quartet that employs Katt Hernandez on violin, Junko Fujiwara Simons on cello, and Luther Gray on drums. And having a quartet that is 75-percent string instruments and 25-percent drums gives Camera slight hints of chamber music at times, although "slight" is the operative word. Camera has a bit of Euro-classical appeal, but there is no overlooking the fact that this is edgy, free jazz. Morris thrives on the abstract, and he thrives on a stream of consciousness approach. But for all its intellect, Camera also has a great deal of passion. Morris' playing is quite focused on cerebral offerings such as "Evocative Shadow," "Patterns on Faces," "Angel of Incidence," and "Reflected Object." Saying that Morris' playing is both stream of consciousness and focused might sound like a contradiction, but it isn't. As outside and freeform as this 2010 session is, Morris obviously went into the studio knowing what he wanted, and he didn't want to throw things up against the wall randomly and see if perhaps they might stick. Camera has more of a sense of purpose than that, and while the end results fall short of essential, this is still a lively, stimulating effort from Morris.

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