“ The term conductor/composer does not begin to adequately describe Morris' role in most of the music he creates. ”
Lawrence Douglas "Butch" Morris was born in Long Beach, California on February 10, 1947. Butch grew up in a musical family and his older brother, the late bassist Wilber Morris, fueled his interest in jazz at a young age. He began playing trumpet and studying composition, harmony and theory in public school, where saxophonist Charles Lloyd was one of his teachers. He also performed in the school marching band. After graduation he studied with a number of notable West Coast musicians and often sat in with tenor saxophonist J.R. Monterose and former Clifford Brown-Max Roach bassist George Morrow. Following a stint in the army, including a tour of duty as a medic in Vietnam, Morris returned home and became entrenched in the "New Jazz" movement, studying with Bobby Bradford and Horace Tapscott and performing in the latter's band with like-minded musicians including John Carter, Mark Dresser, Diamanda Galas, David Murray and James Newton. He found further inspiration when he moved to the Bay Area and became part of an exemplary jazz community that included Ray Anderson, Curtis Clark, Frank Lowe, Charles Tyler and, perhaps most importantly, former Ornette Coleman drummer Charles Moffett who Butch credits with piquing his early interest in the process he calls conduction.
Morris moved to New York in 1976, but spent much of the next half decade living and teaching in Paris and the south of France while teaching in Belgium and Holland. He returned to New York in 1981 and began performing regularly with his own ensembles and those of Billy Bang, Lowe and Murray. It was specifically in Murray's groups, particularly his Octet, that Butch's considerable talents as a composer and arranger began to receive widespread notice. When the tenor saxophonist expanded his group to a big band, the cornetist put aside his horn and began to devote himself almost exclusively to the task of conducting. It is in the role of conductor/ composer that Butch Morris is best known today. Since his tenure with Murray he has conducted many of his own ensembles as well as those of other leaders to critical acclaim all over the world, including legendary engagements at Sweet Basil, the Village Vanguard, the Knitting Factory and the Bowery Poetry Club, here in New York.