Chris Morrissey: The Morning World (2009)
At first blush, The Morning World feels not so much about a bassist as leader of the ensemble, but rather as the bass as leader of the ensemble. This would per force mean that the character of the instrument first establishes its sonic character on the music, or rather makes the music swirl around it. Because Morrissey is smart and as dexterous as a bass violinist this is never a boring expedition. Rather, the relationship of the instruments in each of the compositions has an almost nether-worldly character because of the manner in which the parts have been written into each other.
The bass dominates virtually throughout either through pedal pointas in "The Skinny Part of Idaho," or in "October Aught Four" where every other instrument simply swirls around the pedal point. And in "The Curious Habits of Harold Hill," itself a quirky composition reminiscent in its alliterative title, of something the extraordinary writer J.P.Donlevey might narrate. So a dominant bass instrument, rather than a dominant bassist and the music to go with his character, are two separate theses altogether, and make this record somewhat oblique but mesmerizing as well.
Morrissey has allowed his magnificent bass violin with its low frequency character and tuning dictate the dense and darkened harmonics of the music. Melody is minimal, as in "None is the Number," or even somewhat simplistic as in the title Track, "The Morning World is Waiting." Compositionally, the music sketches vast canvases of sound that could be taken as reminiscent of the prairiesat any rate, a mid-western panache. There is a cavernous quality about the recording where the saxophones appear to be blown from cave-like surroundings as if to pass a strange but diffident commentary as the twister of life blows by.
The key is in the frenetic "The Sub-Prime Sword Claims Another," while not like a Zorn excursion, certainly has that "Spy-vs-Spy" quality to it. It's racy with a thundering bass over everything and the saxophone screaming as if from under societal debris. A pure rant, it's almost punkish in its forthright mannerno room for discussion or argument. "The Noble Liar's Ancient Machine" bubbles and boils over in a frantic staccato that seems never to let up, but drives on to its inevitable conclusion. And finally there is the song, "If Rushmore Should Fall"... the forbidding bass and saxophone interplay says it all.
This is a superb attempt by Morrissey to create a musical commentary in sharp counterpoint to the (Happy) life that has been wrecked by complacent seduction to the urban and not enough time to stop and stare in that operatic manner.
Track Listing: The Skinny Part of Idaho; October Aught Four; Mountain Don't; The Curious Habits of Harold Hill; The Morning World is Waiting; None is the Number; The Sub-prime Sword Claims Another; The Noble Liar's Ancient Machine; If Rushmore Should Fall.
Personnel: Michael Lewis: saxophones; David King: drums; Peter Schimke: piano (3-5, 7, 9); Bryan Nichols: (1, 2, 8); Chris Morrissey: bass; Chris Thomson: saxophone on (7).