Collective improvisation is something that has been a rarity in most types of jazz. It has been common in Dixieland, and Charles Mingus thrived on it. But most jazz--whether it's swing, hard bop, post-bop, fusion, soul-jazz, Latin jazz or bossa nova--has favored a head/solos/head format. Guitarist Joe Morris, however, shows us how appealing collective improvisation can be on Many Rings, a free-form session uniting the guitarist with bassoon player Karen Borca, alto saxman/flutist Rob Brown and accordion player Andrea Parkins. This is hardly a session in which the quartet states the theme and the players take turns blowing--when Morris is soloing, you never know who will jump in and respond with some blowing of his or her own. Musical democracy prevails on such abstract offerings as "Motion to the Air" and "Drawn to the Magnet," and yet, Many Rings doesn't go for all-out pandemonium. Because the players are very much in sync, unplanned solos generally make sense on this album--if Morris is blowing and Brown or Borca decide it's time to jump in and add something to the conversation, their comments are, for the most part, appropriate. Obviously, music this free-form isn't for everyone, but for those who appreciate and comprehend free jazz, Many Rings is worth picking up.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson