With few exceptions, funk and free jazz have remained a safe distance apart. The pioneering efforts of Ornette Coleman's Prime Time, along with the early recordings of James Blood Ulmer, helped bring free funk into the world. But ever since then, most musicians have stayed away.
Joe Morris, today's premier free jazz guitarists, usually pursues a gushing cerebral style of free jazz. Occasional exceptions stand out: 1990's self-released Sweatshop, a free funk power trio record; and the just-released Racket Club, a free funk sextet recorded in 1993. The two records share much in common: keen respect for a funk groove, the emotional power of the blues, and the interesting results that can occur when you step "outside" the bounds of traditional harmony. Think early Blood Ulmer and you're getting pretty close.
What's particularly striking about Racket Club is the way Morris combines a very serious compositional approach with the West African polyphonic effect of a two-horn, two-drum, bass & guitar lineup. Lest you lose track, the screech of the horns occasionally places the group solidly in the post-Ayler zone, as far forward as it gets. But take a second to dig the groove, feel the pulse moving down your spine, and you might just end up shaking some serious booty.
Personnel: Joe Morris: guitar; Jim Hobbs: alto sax; Steve Norton: baritone sax; Nate McBride: electric
bass; Jerome Deupree: drums; Curt Newton: drums.