Joe Morris Bass Quartet: High Definition (2008)
Joe Morris has often switched between guitars and bass throughout his rather fruitful recorded legacy. He's spiraled toward the zenith of modern day progressive/avant-garde jazz artists via his numerous solo ventures and collaborations. High Definition might well stand as one of his crowning achievements, where he performs exclusively on bass while serving as the director of operations.
Morris remains entrenched in the winners' circle, given the impressive scope of this top-flight band. With multi-reedman Alan Chase and multi-hornist Taylor Ho Bynum chairing the front line, the musicians chart a sense of urgency due to contrapuntal free-bop choruses and buoyant flows that occasionally dissolve into fragmented patterns. Moreover, it's a democratic engagement where the instrumentalists are afforded numerous opportunities to stretch out and delve into insightful expressionism.
The Bass Quartet executes that very fine line between structure and free form-based proclivities amid several radiating meltdowns. It's a bit akin to an action-packed adventure flick, awash with complex sub-plots. Yet the band by no means embarks upon a cacophonic course of activities. It displays regimentation while occasionally lowering the temperature, partly due to Chase's introspective clarinet phrasings and Bynum's talkative, muted cornet lines. Although they incorporate a few chamber-like measures into the grand schema, it's more about cohesive bop and free-bop, often-dappled with a sense of urgency.
Morris' fluent and sturdy bass parts, coupled with his longtime musical companion, drummer Luther Gray, add gobs of pop and sizzle to the entire program. The hornists sprinkle harmonically appeasing choruses during the swinging and prismatic "All-In-One." Here, Bynum's brash and darkly woven trumpet phrasings generate a stark contrast to the brisk and memorably melodic primary theme.
With the undeniably synergistic interplay of the ensemble, Morris pursues a striking balance between ultra-modern mainstream, and avant-garde tinged progressive jazz. The band seems to hit all the right notes and, perhaps more importantly, renders a series of performances that traverses a broad array of jazz-based methodologies, where the freer elements translucently intersect the core compositional attributes.
A mighty-fine exposition it is.
Track Listing: Skeleton; Morning Group; Land Mass; Topics; Bearing; All-in-One; Super Spot; The Air Has Color.
Personnel: Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, trumpet, flugelhorn; Allan Chase: alto, baritone and soprano saxophone; Joe Morris: double-bass; Luther Gray: drums.