Tag Archives: barre phillips

All About Jazz review by Clifford Allen

cf-130Joe Morris: MVP LSD, Elm City Duets, High Definition and Rejuvenation 
   
Joe Morris/Jon Voigt/Tom Plsek – The Graphic Scores of Lowell Skinner Davidson (Riti)
Joe Morris/Barre Phillips – Elm City Duets (CF 130) 
Joe Morris Bass Quartet – High Definition (Hatology )
Flow Trio – Rejuvenation (ESP Disk)

Guitarist/bassist-composer Joe Morris talks about one thing repeatedly: flow. He spoke about this facet of his music recently in a discussion with this writer about the late improvising composer Lowell Davidson. Davidson was a multi-instrumentalist who acted as a beacon to a number of younger Boston-based musicians in the ’70s and ’80s, including Morris. His music moved very slowly, hinging on sonic particles and lingering atmospherically, even as rhythms shifted. Those atmospheres could develop into extraordinarily piercing conditions felt objectively. Morris takes a page from that book and builds on it in four extremely varied recent recordings.

MVP joins Morris’ guitar with bassist Jon Voigt and trombonist Tom Plsek, all of whom are fellow travelers in Davidson’s sound world, for a program of ten compositions and one group improvisation. None of the pieces on The Graphic Scores of Lowell Skinner Davidson had been recorded before and their titles mostly correspond to the colored markings on the scores. “Blue Sky and Blotches” begins the set with vicious arco bass, Voigt hitting high harmonics and horsehair-swirling clusters. Trombone and bass unify in resonant long tones, almost like a single player’s multiphonics, while Morris approximates the cutting clink of kalimba, Nigerian single-string violin and throaty blues playing. The guitarist’s horizontal scrapings, which he calls riti (after the African instrument), are a result of playing with Davidson. He needed an approach to resonant harmonic clusters that wasn’t confined to the same structures that European players were using, mostly in the wake of Derek Bailey. He darts gnatlike into high-pitched metallic buzz, then growls midrange before a half-scraped, half-strummed fleck emerges, adding latticework to the drone of trombone and bass. But behind all the activity is an easy detail, where Morris strums Jimmy Raney-esque chords and clipped upturns as Plsek and Voigt pitch and yaw with a wobbly, glottal strut.

The idea of extended technique, such a significant part of the landscape of contemporary improvisation is, to Morris, something of a misnomer insofar as the idea of improvisation itself is something that can extend one’s technique. Bassist Barre Phillips’ work also fits that axiom; he’s long been on the forefront of free music as a player who finds new textural avenues through the whole of his instrument while retaining an extraordinarily classical poise. Though both Morris and Phillips had played in similar circles, it was in 2004 that they began formally working together and two years later recorded Elm City Duets. Though crackling scrapes and glissandi make for a spiky nest on the introductory piece and their spars search mutually, the clear bottom afforded by Phillips’ pizzicato and Morris’ folksy wandering on “Recite” makes for a measured and steady dance. Sure, the guitarist clambers a rickety waterspout of registers in parallel with heavy wooden thrum, but it’s within a language directly tied to the instruments’ regular habitats. Riti scrabble, the flat plunk of prepared strings and subtonal fingerboard slaps are a broadening of the vocabulary.

High Definition is yet another side of Morris—or two—as it presents him in a compositional light alongside his bass playing which, in tandem with drummer Luther Gray, serves the tunes’ rhythmic tensions perfectly. Morris is joined here on eight originals by cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and saxophonist Allan Chase, the latter a collaborator on trumpeter John McNeil’s excellent East Coast Cool (OmniTone, 2004). The opening “Skeleton” recalls some of Anthony Braxton’s pianoless quartet work in the ’70s, a slinky theme that moves through uneven cycles. Rather than ghost trance stop-time, though, Gray and Morris keep an unwavering beat underneath Chase’s plowing and husky baritone and the gulping, brittle shrikes of Bynum’s brass. Choruses of pots and pluck later, the theme returns as a sophisticated answer to any query of “what is free-bop?” Lilting multiple tempos signal “Morning Group,” note cells hovering in a space continually active and clearly defined. Bynum takes Bill Dixon’s teachings into his own space, clear and cube-like clusters that move forward while rhythm hangs back and shades the corners.

To come full circle, Rejuvenation is the first disc from the aptly-named Flow Trio: Morris on bass with tenorman Louie Belogenis and drummer Charles Downs (formerly known as Rashid Bakr). Belogenis has played with figures in the music as diverse as Ikue Mori, Rashied Ali and Sunny Murray and his approach to the tenor is reminiscent of early Joe McPhee, sandblasted wide-vibrato, full and breathy yet with a microcosmic sense of detail. After the solo harmonic exploration of “Reflection,” a backwater poem of taut multiphonics and solitary keening, Morris and Downs enter for “Slow Cab”. Their approach to rhythm is almost laconic it’s so loose and hangs back from power trio expectations. Morris’ bass playing is coolly repetitive, plucking distant outlines for Downs’ cloudy gauze and Belogenis’ measured, flinty outpourings. Even when the music increases in density, mallets ricocheting off hot tenor walls, the pace is very natural, almost restive. Morris’ writing and choice of compatriots give a sense of directed motion to sound, reasserting the notion of swing as tension between actual and implied.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=32244

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

cf-130JOE MORRIS / BARRE PHILLIPS – Elm City Duets (CF 130)
What transpires from Elm City Duets after repeated dutiful listens is an impression of mutual regard, a quality which should be at the basis of cognisant interplay in every juncture. All the more complicated is fulfilling such an ambition in a guitar/double bass duo, a situation that only on the odd occasion warrants really good results – especially in terms of dynamics. Morris manifests a fan-like mindset in the liner notes, where he recalls his first meetings with Phillips many years following his “melting” the B side of Archie Shepp’s New Thing At Newport. The actual music in the CD doesn’t reveal any sort of excessive veneration, though, thus we can effortlessly appreciate the consideration given by the artists to the infinitesimal detail as opposed to prefabricated incidents. A sparkling chord occurs because it was meant to be there at that moment, yet no one knew in advance; a touching arcoed lament appears out of nowhere to project our own inner tremor in the area of unintentional thankfulness. In essence, we’re talking about a fairly untreated acoustic interface between two distinguished improvisers who give birth to frequent moments of superb artistic purity, either slightly encrusted by the strident features of the instruments or defined by an extremely efficient juxtaposition of smart clusters, percussive clattering, minimal patterns and strenuous contrapuntal digressions. In times of abundant eruptions of psycho-babbling vacuum, here’s a rare chance for the appreciation of a rather complex, yet kind-hearted expression of zealous musicianship by creative entities who have turned their will to remain unadulterated in a world of dubious circumstances into a distinct trait of tightly established earnestness, the sort of skill where even a minor blemish becomes an attribute to approve and learn from.

All About Jazz Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

cf-1302Joe Morris – Barre Phillips – Elm City Duets 2006 (CF 130)
A volte si intrecciano e si avvinghiano in un abraccio quasi soffocante, altre volte sembrano ignorarsi seguendo traiettorie apparentemente distanti, a volte sembrano intasare tutto lo spazio disponibile, altre volte rispettano un religioso silenzio, quasi timorosi di invadere il terreno altrui.
Stiamo parlando del contrabbasso di Barre Phillips e della chitarra acustica di Joe Morris, impegnati in otto duetti registrati per la sempre più interessante etichetta portoghese Clean Feed. Ma Elm City Duets 2006 è soprattutto una questione di corde, quelle sottili della chitarra e quelle più robuste del contrabbasso.

Corde pizzicate, accarezzate, maltrattate, percosse con le dita e con l’archetto, corde che stridono e che piangono, corde che narrano la vita e quindi raccontano gioie e dolori, illusioni e speranze. Non ci sono canovacci, tracce, punti di raccordo, snodi narrativi in Elm City Duets 2006, semplicemente c’è il fluire libero e senza ostacoli del pensiero musicale di due maestri della musica creativa.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=3644

Bagatellen review by Jason Bivins

cf-1301Joe Morris/Barre Phillips – Elm City Duets 2006 (CF130)
This one is an incredible meeting between Joe Morris — here exclusively on acoustic guitar — and one of his musical heroes, contrabassist Barre Phillips. It had been a while since I’d heard anything from either musician, and this record is quite simply a beaut. It’s the kind of thing that actually restores my faith in guitar playing, which is a pleasure to say. What strikes me about the record as a whole is not just the sumptuous woody sounds, nor even the incredibly kinetic interplay between these two. Good as those qualities are, I was continually bowled over by the lyricism that’s all over this record. From the first notes of “Ninth Square” you wouldn’t necessarily expect this. It rises from gentle but insistent bowing from Morris, coaxing some overtones from steel strings like he was sending smoke signals, with gorgeous drifts and work on the body from Phillips. But beginning with “Recite,” the strange logic and lyricism of the disc begins to emerge from the resounding, percolating lines the pair conjure. As Phillips plays rubbery glissandi on “Saved stones,” Morris plays brilliantine, almost fragile chords. And the lyricism of “June Song” delivers what the earlier pieces had only hinted at, with Phillips playing with unadorned emotion, his deep and robust lines set against Morris’ gentle preparations (or at least what sounds like preparations, a banjo flavor), like their own weird slice of Americana. I find this immensely appealing, but for those who want more grit, consult the chorus of wood and wire on the jittery “Normal Stuff,” or the groaning arco that shapes “Spirals.” Nothing about this is a by-the-numbers improv record. It’s filled with unpredictable moments and dynamic shifts, never losing sight of its own sense of form or harmony, but also opening up the music to contrast and chance aplenty.
http://www.bagatellen.com/?p=2245

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

cf-130JOE MORRIS / BARRE PHILLIPS – Elm City Duets (CF 130)
What transpires from Elm City Duets after repeated dutiful listens is an impression of mutual regard, a quality which should be at the basis of cognisant interplay in every juncture. All the more complicated is fulfilling such an ambition in a guitar/double bass duo, a situation that only on the odd occasion warrants really good results – especially in terms of dynamics. Morris manifests a fan-like mindset in the liner notes, where he recalls his first meetings with Phillips many years following his “melting” the B side of Archie Shepp’s New Thing At Newport. The actual music in the CD doesn’t reveal any sort of excessive veneration, though, thus we can effortlessly appreciate the consideration given by the artists to the infinitesimal detail as opposed to prefabricated incidents. A sparkling chord occurs because it was meant to be there at that moment, yet no one knew in advance; a touching arcoed lament appears out of nowhere to project our own inner tremor in the area of unintentional thankfulness. In essence, we’re talking about a fairly untreated acoustic interface between two distinguished improvisers who give birth to frequent moments of superb artistic purity, either slightly encrusted by the strident features of the instruments or defined by an extremely efficient juxtaposition of smart clusters, percussive clattering, minimal patterns and strenuous contrapuntal digressions. In times of abundant eruptions of psycho-babbling vacuum, here’s a rare chance for the appreciation of a rather complex, yet kind-hearted expression of zealous musicianship by creative entities who have turned their will to remain unadulterated in a world of dubious circumstances into a distinct trait of tightly established earnestness, the sort of skill where even a minor blemish becomes an attribute to approve and learn from.
http://touchingextremes.blogspot.com/2009/02/joe-morris-barre-phillips-elm-city.html

Dusted Magazine review by Derek Taylor

cf-1301

Joe Morris & Barre Phillips – Elm City Duets (CF 130)
Predating the pivotal Four Improvisations with Anthony Braxton by a year, Elm City Duets 2006 documents guitarist Joe Morris in equally auspicious company with a doyen of improvisation. Barre Phillips’ credentials go back to the 1960s as a pioneer in extended techniques on the bull fiddle. His sphere of influence remains expansive, having at least peripheral impact on Morris’ own investigations on the instrument. Here, Morris sticks to his other axe. Though mainly known for a singular single-note style, Morris has been morphing his guitar into facsimiles of other sound implements since at least as early as the “Mnemonic Device” series on Flip and Spike (1992). That chameleonic ability is in full effect in this context. There’s also a direct line drawn to an earlier collaboration in Morris’ discography, Invisible Weave on the long defunct No More imprint that paired him with William Parker. On that date, Morris played electric. Here, it’s all acoustic and that decision sharpens the dry, sometimes stark flavor of the improvised interplay.
“Ninth Square” builds from an abrasive chatter of scraped and sawed strings in mapping a playing field of wide dynamics. Morris evinces amazing arco control, sounding like a metallic violin and holding his own with the master Phillips, who plays an instrument inherently conducive to it. The sardonically-titled “Normal Stuff” has lots of rubbing friction and knocking patter to yield the semblance of industrial machinery. These texture-oriented pieces alternate with more melodically-grounded ventures, like the disc’s delicate centerpiece “June Song,” where Phillips warmly articulates pizzicato contrasts with Morris’ ringing string harmonics that take on resonant properties akin to Gamelan bowls. With “Spirals,” it’s the reverse; Morris picks bright note parcels against the more plangent constructions of Phillips’ pumice-grinding arco. “Translate” measures frequent pauses between collective passages with Morris’ customary tightly-packed clusters unwound to better reveal constituents.

“Recite” turns attention to the familiar elliptic patterns that have been part of Morris’ vernacular for decades. Phillips plumbs the spaces between the brittle progressions with bulbous pizzicato, the elasticity of his plucks gleaning full advantage of the room’s acoustics and natural sound decay. Even the bassist’s breathing is audible in the quieter miniature moments. On “Saved Stones,” Morris’ blue notes pile up like bent bottle caps, vested with similarly corrugated edges. Phillips responds with a barrage of bridge-slapping and low buzzing. Only in the closing minutes of the lengthy and otherwise action-packed finale “Got Into Some Things” do the two seem slightly uncertain as to direction, ultimately landing with more of a resigned sigh than emphatic shout. While nothing as yet in the guitarist’s catalog can match the magnitude of the Braxton set, this disc is a good companion in illustrating the heights kindred improvisers can scale in tandem.
http://www.dustedmagazine.com/reviews/4694