Tag Archives: Joe Morris

All About Jazz Italy review by Gigi Sabelli

Simon H. Fell – Positions & Descriptions (CF 230)
Valutazione: 5 stelle

Tra improvvisazioni collettive, parti rigorosamente scritte, musica elettronica, basi preregistrate e jazz orchestrale questo disco trova il pertugio per una propria indiscutibile originalità. Si tratta di un lavoro la cui genesi è stata particolarmente laboriosa: venne commissionato a Simon H. Fell dalla BBC e fu suonato dal vivo per la prima volta nel novembre del 2007 in Inghilterra, all’Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, dove è stato registrato questo disco.

L’idea di far convivere materiale di questo tipo potrebbe evocare la Matthew Herbert Orchestra ma, nel corso dei vari ascolti che questo CD richiede per farsene un’idea appropriata a una recensione, vengono piuttosto in mente Braxton, lo Zappa orchestrale (per esempio nella vivace ritmica iniziale di “Whos’ the Fat Man?”) o anche la musica postdodecafonica, che sembra un evidente punto di riferimento di un lavoro concettualmente molto complesso.
Si attraversano paesaggi sonori molto diversificati che sortiscono da una ricca tavolozza in cui singoli (e spesso brevissimi) spunti ritmici, armonici o semplicemente legati all’altezza e alla tonalità diventano la base su cui costruire indescrivibili sviluppi elettronici, montaggi sonori o fertilissime improvvisazioni.

Il disco alterna brani definiti “Positions,” che spesso scaturiscono da idee e spunti ben riconoscibili (come quelli che portano dal jazz mingusiano al tango in “Movt. III”) a interludi (ovvero le “Descrptions”) che già dai titoli rivelano qualcosa di sé: oltre al già citato “Whos’ the Fat Man?” anche “FZ pour PB” (ovvero Frank Zappa e Pierre Boulez), “Graphic Description” e “Plusieurs commentaires de PB pour DR”. In questi casi la musica scaturisce da collage liberi di modelli originali, inversioni e abbassamenti di grado.
Il risultato complessivo è più che convincente: è apprezzabile, articolato e ricco di squarci onirici e visionari.

Burning Ambulance review by Phil Freeman

SFE – Positions & Descriptions (CF 230) 
The free jazz orchestra has a long and raucous history. (I analyzed some notable recordings for Perfect Sound Forever in 2003.) This group, organized by and performing a piece by bassist Simon H. Fell (I’m gonna go ahead and guess that SFE stands for Simon Fell Ensemble), isn’t as wall-blasting as the Globe Unity Orchestra or some of Cecil Taylor‘s large groups can be; in fact, there are many sections that are soft and quite beautiful. At the same time, there are sections of this vast (15 musicians plus a conductor, 79 minutes) work that swing and churn like a mixture of Charles Mingus, Frank Zappa circa Uncle Meat, and Pierre Boulez.

The piece, which was recorded live at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in the UK in 2007, goes through five movements, each of which is divided into subsections labeled “Positions.” These are bridged by interludes known as “Descriptions”; there are five of those, too. The first four positions are atmospheric and vaguely orchestral, full of hums and zings and lots of space between sounds. This mode, strongly reminiscent of Euro improv but also of horror or sci-fi movie scores, continues all the way through descriptions 2 and 3, entitled “FZ pour PB” and “Commentaire de ‘Fz pour PB.’” Then things take off a little bit, as the lurching Movement III (positions 6-9) begins with much more activity from the horns and a sort of off-kilter swing. There’s also an extraordinarily beautiful, mournful violin solo by Mifune Tsuji. But soon enough, things drop down to an ominous simmer again, with reeds offering slow-burning solos that are as much about the flapping of valves as the production of notes. In the back, guitar and piano make very soft sounds, as though not wanting to disturb anyone.

The band lurches back into life for the final, nearly 24-minute Movement V. A sort of chamber jazz for large ensemble, it sways along for a minute or two, before Mark Sanders‘ drums and Joe Morris‘ stinging (but ultra-clean) electric guitar take over. They’re succeeded by what I think is a baritone sax (there are a lot of low-end instruments in the reed section), then piano and some whooshing “extended technique” trumpet work…the piece goes on like this, a variety of instrumentalists taking spotlight turns that last just long enough to be exciting, without ever letting anyone wear out his or her welcome.

The liner notes indicate that this recording is a combination of live performance and pre-recorded electronic elements, with some sections scored and others improvised. The whole thing is utterly seamless, though, with no awkward moments, and any listener with an ear for this kind of thing will almost certainly be held rapt from beginning to end.

With a group of this size, it’s probably reasonable to list personnel, so here we go: Alex Ward and Andrew Sparling on clarinets, Jim Denley on flutes, Chris Batchelor on trumpet, Tim Berne and Damien Royannais on saxophones, Rhodri Davies on harp, Philip Thomas on piano and celesta, Joe Morris on guitar, Steve Beresford on electronics, Mifune Tsuji on violin, Philip Joseph on theremin, Simon Fell on bass and electronics, Joby Burgess on percussion, Mark Sanders on drums, and Clark Rundell conducting.

You’re not likely to hear another record that sounds anything like this anytime soon. Highly recommended.

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

JOE MORRIS / NATE WOOLEY – Tooth And Nail (CF 190)
No chance of getting bored when two masters – albeit of different age and background – hold a course in immediate creation of uncontaminated, restorative music such as that contained by Tooth And Nail. A guitar/trumpet duo revealing hundreds of singular yet familiar-sounding facets, Joe Morris and Nate Wooley are stylistically unattached, both desirous of creating innovative terminologies while keeping the flame of the interest for the traditional voices of their instruments flickering. They keep things on a purely acoustic level, producing communicative conversations from which an improviser willing to challenge typecasting and ordinariness can only learn.

At this altitude of instrumental interchange, amour-propre remains entirely out of the equation; any colloquial complication is perceived as a lesson in intelligibility despite the obvious lack of a predetermined harmonic foundation. As the guitarist correctly states in the record’s presentation in regard to improvisational aesthetics and technical development, “the current situation is a fresh start on the original situation”. In a track like the “A Terrific Snag” we’re shown new ways to utilize technique to get delivered by artistic constraint, not to reinforce it. The steady transmission of clean energy generated by Morris’ now sparkling, now semi-buzzing oblique plucking is countered by Wooley’s nosy chronicling, typified by his impressive facility in finding lines to follow and, soon thereafter, disintegrate them into micro-intervallic shards and infinitesimal screeches. On the other hand, “Forest Grove” is played on a cordially jumpy call-and-response, the protagonists using solitary pitches and scraping string noises that leave the audience imagining amusing gestures and odd smirks swapped in between the flurries. In “Gigantica”, Morris picks outside the conventionally acknowledged areas, regular notes and acute pings mixed in a Gibson/xylophone/mbira hybrid.

Of similar episodes, this disc is chock full. These gentlemen managed to take advantage of whatever’s applicable in eight sketches where an intelligent daringness is given away without masks of sorts. The exasperating fight against the natural flowing of life through an instrument, inexorably lost by many ostentatious virtuosos, is conspicuously absent here. This articulate pair reshuffles our convictions at the same moment in which they’re telling us that everything’s OK, and it feels fabulous throughout.

Steve Dollar’s (Wall Street Journal, Time Out Chicago) Best of 2010 List

Listed alphabetically

Marshall Allen-Matthew Shipp-Joe Morris: Night Logic (RogueArt)
Bizingas: Bizingas (NCM East)
Nels Cline: Dirty Baby (Cryptogramophone)
Stephan Crump: Reclamation (Sunnyside)
Mary Halvorson: Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
Chris Lightcap: Bigmouth Deluxe (Clean Feed)
Jason Moran: Ten (Blue Note)
Joe Morris & Nate Wooley: Tooth and Nail (Clean Feed)
William Parker: Uncle Joe’s Spirit House (Centering)
Marc Ribot: Silent Movies (Pi)

All About Jazz-Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

Joe Morris / Nate Wooley – Tooth and Nail (CF 190)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
Quella del duo è un’arte sopraffina e stimolante ma anche rischiosa e implacabile. Non si può barare, non ci si può nascondere, si è “nudi alla meta” e solo spiccata sensibilità, orecchie aperte, capacità comunicativa, vera urgenza espressiva possono portare a risultati significativi. E’ quello che accade in questo Tooth and Nail dove due innovatori come il chitarrista Joe Morris e il trombettista Nate Wooley danno vita ad un incontro di notevole intensità condividendo le proprie visioni musicali che vanno oltre le regole assodate di armonia, tonalità e ritmo.

Ma non è su questo terreno che dobbiamo indirizzare la nostra attenzione quanto piuttosto su quello di una ricerca profonda sui limiti degli strumenti e sulle possibilità del musicista di sfruttarne ogni più recondita risorsa a fini comunicativi. Wooley radicalizza l’evoluzione della tromba jazz tornando agli elementi che ne costituiscono l’approccio base ossia respiro, posizione delle labbra, uso della lingua, esasperandone la funzionalità. Morris, dal canto suo, lavora sulle corde pizzicando, glissando, percuotendo, utilizzando tutto lo spazio fisico consentito dallo strumento e quando prende corpo qualcosa di simile al fraseggio questo ha l’essenzialità delle singole note e la forza espressiva di un’intera orchestra.

“Sussurri e grida” potremmo definire Tooth and Nail, parafrasando uno dei capolavori di Ingmar Bergman. Più sussurri che grida perché il clima della registrazione è intimo con i due musicisti che svelano le proprie emozioni in modo apparentemente disordinato, irregolare e nervoso. Ma una volta sintonizzati con il particolare universo sonoro creato da Morris e Wooley si apre per l’ascoltatore un mondo affascinante e prezioso.

Improjazz review by Luc Bouquet

Paris Transatlantic review by Jason Bivins

Joe Morris/Nate Wooley – TOOTH AND NAIL (CF 190)
Tooth and Nail features Joe Morris on acoustic guitar and Nate Wooley on trumpet, whose playing on these eight tracks is less focused on immersion and intertwining than on contrast, feinting and exultation in sonic difference. After the lovely exchanges of “Metronorth,” where wood and brass cage each other in the ring, Morris’s fascinating flinty bridge work on “Gigantica” sets up lobs for Wooley to bat down with the force of his breath. But this is no mere recital of bitty, gestures. The two really relish the abstracted slices of bop language on “Steelhead” and “Terrific Snag,” with Morris swinging hard. “Noble Reasoning” finds him fascinatingly reworking an ascending phrase, with a Braxtonian mini-hiccup at its heart, with Wooley a laughing bird crossed with Cootie Williams. If it’s invention and outness you’re after, don’t worry. Check out the serrations and choked chords on “Forest Grove,” along with Wooley’s muffled squeaks and brassy whines, or the soft drones and koto sounds of “Barberchaired.” It’s a fascinatingly varied duo outing, the kind of thing to play to shut up that guy who says free improv has no roots. Kudos!