Joe Morris Quartet


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There's no doubt Morris is an original electric jazz guitarist. Though short of Sonny Sharrock energy-wise and Derek Bailey in terms of innovation, Morris nonetheless holds high qualities of inventiveness, singular purpose, and individual vision. His is a spare, amplified, but not treated sound, thin on fiber and bulk but allowing those staccato notes to softly sing. Bassist Chris Lightcap, violinist Mat Maneri, and drummer Gerald Cleaver are all quite capable musicians well aware of what Morris seeks. They collectively fuel the smoldering embers with sight lines of their own. It is music firmly in the modern avant-garde, with signals from both underground and outer space informing but not dictating terms. The five compositions from Morris are all quite long, starting with the 16-minute title track. A bass-drums workout shows Lightcap and Cleaver can get next to these juxtaposed notions, as well. "Remarks" is more conversational, a dirge blues with free intentions and melodies that flow then stop, flow then stop, repeated through the entire piece. Cleaver in particular has a handle on these changes; he seems to be initiating them with no cue from Morris. Blues beats morph unexpectedly at his command, and there's a peculiar reference to "Stormy Weather." More obtuse is a 6/4 to 4/4 in "Routine Three," which is very angular and Thelonious Monk-ish in nature. It swings on its own terms. "Two Busses and a Long Walk" is termed by Morris as a "flowthrough" composition with bass, drums, violin, and guitar. None of the four establish but a squint of melody, and hot water sounds swirl around and around. "Manipulatives" is a launching pad for ideas to shoot forth simultaneously, decidedly free and unabashed, with Lightcap's best solo. Morris has an individualist's attitude which produces music that is not for everyone, but certainly well within listenable parameters. Timidity or resting on laurels is not in the vocabulary of this unique musician.

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