Chris Morrissey

The Morning World

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Bassist Chris Morrissey's concept is based in the contemporary indie jazz of youth mixed with tried-and-true modernism via Thelonious Monk as a springboard, and the direct influence of the Bad Plus. Drummer Dave King likely has to do with the latter, but saxophonist Michael Lewis and pianists Bryan Nichols or Peter Schimke are responsible for the unusual nature of these tunes that follow no discernible, predictable patterns. Listening closely offers great rewards, but unlike King and his Bad Plus bandmates, this music is much less obviously tuneful and rock-oriented. While complex in many instances, there's a fluid dynamic present, distortion is not utilized, and the tart sound of the primarily alto sax of Lewis spikes the music like hard lemonade. "The Skinny Part of Idaho," with its slowed funk and thin alto, the easy bluesy "The Morning World Is Waiting" with Lewis on a darker, foreboding tenor, and the even blacker "If Rushmore Should Fall" emphasizes the implied, shadowy side of the group. Then they jump up at you in a sudden manner via bass and piano motifs for "October Aught Four" with contrasting Steve Reich-like minimalism and lilting alto that suggest a dancing mode. A quirky and edgy piece, "The Noble Liar's Ancient Machine" and its preceding track, the harder edge of "The Sub-Prime Sword Claims Another" both get to the heart of current-day social issues, with the challenge of the music mirroring both economic stompdown and meltdown. On the other side, a wonderful, mercurial spirit song, "The Curious Habits of Harold Hill" sports a snake-like, slithering melody, and "Mountain Don't" is the offbeat bop à la Monk that suggests these cats know history and how to reinvent it. Marvelously inventive compositions within a fresh perspective are heard, emphasized by abounding musicianship. This keenly conceived jazz recording refuses broad, free range pigeonholing, yet has a strange charm that remains obsequious but intriguing upon repeat, satisfying listenings.

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