All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource


Joe Morris: Singularity, Part 2-2

By Published: August 25, 2005

AAJ: One thing that's sort of interesting is that you don't bend notes too much.

JM: No, not too much. I do, in funny sorts of ways, because I work a lot to get real subtle intonation and inflection, rather than real drastic changes. But I also work to get big intervals, and a lot of this stuff that has stretching is like pentatonic scales and really small spaces. I could do that, but you can't have your own voice if you say the same things everyone else does.

AAJ: Yeah, but there's room for the notes between the notes.

JM: Definitely. That's what Joe Maneri is all about. He once asked me if I would change the tuning of my guitar, and I said, "No, but I will play quarter tones if you want me to." He said, "But you can't play glissando." And I said, "No problem." So in like a week I practiced and learned to play that stuff. It was good for me. He got me to think about getting those subtleties in there. And I use a lot of harmonics in things I do. But I don't expect to be everybody's version of what anything's supposed to be.

AAJ: But you make choices based on some rationale. And that's what I'm here to find out.

JM: My rationale is pretty detailed. But it isn't connected to a lot of the things that people would think it's connected to. If you take the world of improvising, and I've written about this in my liner notes to Flip and Spike, that improvising is like any other art form—the variations on it are based on aesthetics. They are not based on technique. In this thing that I do, the aesthetic demands that you create your own technique to play your music. That's where the music comes from.

Eric Dolphy created a way of playing the saxophone that becomes his music. Monk's the same way. I'm the same way. I'm interested in creating a way of playing my instrument, and that would be my music. That's my aesthetic, it's more detailed and more specific and more personal than that. But it's different from being an interpretive musician, interpreting some other form, or some other musical tradition, or someone else's music.

I'm a creative musician. Not like other people aren't creative, but other people are more interpretive. I create a use of my instrument. And that's what Anthony Braxton did. And to support that, I need to create band material to support the way I use my instrument. Which is exactly what Charlie Parker did. He had to do that. Playing his way with Lester Young's rhythm section is not his music. It had real structure to showcase his own voice, his own sound in. And that's what this is about.

And that's very different from interpreting other forms, or styles, or ethnic traditions, things like that. There's an awful lot of interpretive music, an awful lot of interpretive improvising going on. I'm not about that. Believe me, there's a lot of that going on. I'm not putting it down or anything, but if everybody does that, the music's going to run out.

You need people to make some for other people to interpret. The interpreters are always going to be there, but without people inventing Klezmer a long time ago, you wouldn't have a whole bunch of people today interpreting what they did. You have to have people sticking their necks out and justifying it with almost, seemingly, inexplicable rationales.

It has to happen. That's how people evolve. That's how civilization has unfolded. There's a point in the last ten or fifteen years where a lot of people have gone to music school, and studied the third stream, the world music, and the jazz thing, and come out sort of reshaping their interpretations of what they learned in school. Because in school they don't teach you the structure to invent your own system.

I think I've had a pretty broad ranging recording career, in terms of labels. It's kind of interesting. Suffice to say they're all different in how they deal with you. Some are easier than others. But it's very hard to break in. It's very hard to get in. And it's even harder to distinguish yourself once you get in. You have to promote the records even though somebody else is putting them out. And you can't just sit there, and say, "I made this one record, so it will do it for me." You need to keep making records. You need to keep looking at the other sides of what you do, so you're not making the same record over and over again.

It's important to do the big interviews, you know. But if you wait for those to happen, it takes forever. Meanwhile you can do these, and reach a lot more people, I think. I've got one coming out with Pop Watch, I'm interviewing with the editor of Carbon-14. I'm actually going to be in a skateboarding magazine.

AAJ: Whose idea was that?

JM: The editor. It's a pretty cool magazine, you know... really nice art. He's totally into it...Hell, I would much rather, at this point in my life, try to impress a bunch of skateboarders, than I would trying to impress the jazz establishment.

AAJ: I'm not sure the skateboarders are going to be receptive.

JM: Yeah, but I don't want to waste my energy trying to impress the jazz establishment. Put it that way...

I remember listening to John McLaughlin a lot, back in the '70s. That's what everybody I knew did...

comments powered by Disqus