All About Jazz review by Glenn Astarita

CF306Joe Morris Quartet – Balance (CF 306)
****
After several albums and great synergy, guitarist Joe Morris disbanded the quartet in 2000 with many of his associates stating it was a “terrible idea.” For this reunion, the musicians’ artistic evolution surges on via a conglomeration of diminutive and soaring theme-building episodes, asymmetrical footprints, and staggered detours, instilling a continual sense of anticipation.

The gala is off to a rousing start on “Thought,” fostered by Mat Maneri’s buzzing viola passages, and the unit’s synchronous improvisational attack, as the musicians’ fluent, Johnny-on-the spot courses of action remain a constant throughout. However, they temper the pulse with the brooding “Trust,” where Morris’ dark-toned electric lines, executed with twirling flurries and intricately devised constructions, form a clustering effect atop bassist Chris Lightcap’s huge bottom. Otherwise, the band abides by a fast and furious gait as they navigate through a maze of micro-motifs, churning out cohesive statements along the way.

The quartet closes the program with the twelve-minute “Meaning,” instigated by Morris’ flickering notes; Lightcap’s linear phrasings and shrewd counterbalancing techniques. Drummer Gerald Cleaver’s textural cymbals swashes help broaden the backdrop, as Maneri rides above the musical horizon amid a fractured and twisting solo spot. Hence, the ensemble works toward a centralized focus, while gradually narrowing the overall soundscape in spots. Cleaver also imparts a sweeping solo in the bridge section, ratifying an expansive plane to complement the effervescent groove. Among other positives, Morris’ quartet is a unit you can count on for extending the limits of whatever improvisational model(s) they process, coinciding with the artists’ dynamic interactions and dizzying rhythmical measures.

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