Joe Morris

Racket Club

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Racket Club is one of guitarist Joe Morris' early albums. Recorded in 1993, it features a largish ensemble, a sextet, and is virtually unlike any other Joe Morris record fans -- or foes -- have ever heard. For starters, with two drummers, two saxophonists, a bassist, and himself, this is an inverse portrait of Ornette Coleman's Prime Time band, a group that, at least here, deeply influenced Morris, not only in terms of composition and improvisation, but his tonal technical approach to the guitar. And while the music here is driven, funky, dirty, raw, and full of energy and fine musicianship, it ultimately misses for precisely this reason. With the exception of the obvious shift away from the alto as the centerpiece to the six-string electric guitar, Morris' sound here, and his tunes, are complete apes of Coleman's all the way down to Morris tuning his guitar to harmolodic E, the same tuning James "Blood" Ulmer used first with the Coleman band, then later on in his own funky harmolodic investigations. Given what you've come to expect from Morris and his knotty, cerebral elegance, this is a change, and an even more accessible opportunity to hear him play. However, there's too little of the guitarist as himself here to evaluate properly. This would be a decent Prime Time album if they recorded with Bern Nix in front instead of Coleman. Given Morris' almost unbelievable development over the past decade, it's a far more interesting proposal to listen to his later records when his signature is firmly in place.

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