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Joe Morris: Singularity, Part 1-2

By Published: August 25, 2005

AAJ: This is a very Zen attitude you have here. Allowing it to happen.

JM: I think it's a life process. I suppose if you got some recognition and got rich, like in other art forms. I used to be an art handler in New York, and I used to go to Basquiat's studio. That guy was like me and my friends, but he made some painting and become a millionaire in a year. You can't do that with music. It's pretty grass-rootsy. You're down in the trenches all the time. You can't walk through a room of people who are interested in you and have an attitude. You talk to people, you hang out with people. I think it's a really high art form that by its nature can't be compromised. That's why I got in it.

AAJ: I think there's an element of personality that is cool to explore. Everybody's got a different way of saying things. If they're doing their job, they're expressing something that's unique to them. So whom of the people you've heard who share this mindset would you like to record with?

JM: I used to really want to play with Cecil Taylor badly. I saw it as a hurdle. If I could be a guitarist that played with Cecil... and I understand his music very well. I did get to play with him once in a rehearsal. It sounded great. I could do it. I was up all night before it happened, and I was really nervous. I got up there and played, and I said, this could be my only chance, so I let it rip. And it was good. It was very good. At least I thought it was. And he liked it. I've known him for a long time. After that, it was like, "I did that." I suppose if he called me up, sure, I'd play with Cecil.

Playing with Matthew Shipp is a huge challenge. I also played with a pianist named Hans Poppel that no one knows about. I recorded with him almost two years ago, and the tape's coming out this year on Knitting Factory. You know, I still feel like I could make a big statement about the guitar with Cecil, but I feel like I've done that on my own, and that's fine.

I think if I really was willing to do the thing of getting in Cecil's band, which means...

AAJ: You have to be part of the entourage.

JM: Yeah, and that gets old. I don't know if I want to do that. So I did it, I proved it to myself, and I didn't really pursue it after that. I dunno... maybe it never would have happened, but it was pretty great to do it. I love Cecil.

You know, I know a lot about Ornette and Braxton. It would have been a kick to play with either of those. I've talked to both of them about it, over the years. But now I don't really see that either. I feel like I have earned my right to do what I want to do, and I don't have to ... anybody. That was a very hard thing to go through. I really tried to get those things, and they didn't happen, either because I wasn't good enough, or I wasn't in the right place, or some thing or another.

But I feel good. I have the right to do this, with having earned it a different way. I didn't have to be sanctioned by anybody in particular, which is a cool thing. Those guys are exactly like that. That's the beauty of those three guys (Braxton, Cecil, and Ornette): they fell right out of the sky. Yeah, they played with people here and there, like Paul Bley or Coleman Hawkins. But they just came out of a pod.

AAJ: There are people who have come out of Cecil's band who only became recognized after they had done things with him.

JM: Yeah, broke free of the constraints of being identified with that. And Ornette's like that, too. Some people can't break out of that. I feel lucky that people don't refer to me as the guitarist who used to play with Cecil Taylor. I'm glad about that. At one point I thought it would have been good, but...

AAJ: It's an education, just a different kind of education.

JM: Yeah. All three of those guys are geniuses. They're all in touch with the deepest parts of the music. And they all have their own take on it, which is pretty amazing. They're giants. But rather than being a follower of that kind of thing, I'd like to learn to understand all this stuff and elevate my stuff to that level. I would like to do that. Do it on the guitar. Be a guitarist, possessing that knowledge. The guitar needs that. There are great guitar players... I want to be part of that thing, being a guitarist. Try and extend the music the way all of those people have.

For more information visit Joe Morris and Joe Morris @ AUM Fidelity on the web. A complete listing of Riti Records releases is available here. You may also wish to read Allen Huotari's July '99 AAJ interview.

Color photo credit
© Mephisto

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