All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

354

Joe Morris: Beautiful Existence

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Although guitarist Joe Morris has proven himself to be an accomplished upright bassist since adding the instrument to his arsenal in 2001, it is on the guitar that he truly shines, and nowhere more so than on Beautiful Existence.

Temporarily setting aside his recently adopted instrument for his first axe, Morris leads his quartet on an adventurous and varied set. With hauntingly atmospheric modal grooves, tender, reflective ballads and invigorating, angular free bop, Morris's singular talents as a guitarist have never been more evident.

Alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs joins fellow Fully Celebrated Orchestra member, bassist Timo Shanko and drummer Luther Gray, Morris' regular rhythm section, to create a sympathetic group of fellow improvisers. Operating conceptually outside of current trends, the quartet eschews electronics, sampling and postmodern structures, opting instead for a stripped-down, classic but free-leaning post bop sound.

Opening with a flurry of activity on the Ornette Coleman-ish "Smear Spring," Morris unleashes a barrage of notes that literally numb the senses. A tonal traditionalist, Morris abstains from electronic effects, playing dry and clean, he demonstrates clarity in his melodic conception that is staggering in its complexity. This is obvious on the circuitous path he navigates through his opening solo on the title track. With its jaunty melody and angular abstraction, the devilish maze is of his own devising. Showing restraint, he reveals a mellifluous sense of delicacy on "Some Good." Reminiscent of an adventurous late-1960s Blue Note session riding a relaxed modal bass ostinato, Morris delivers his most lyrical playing of the album.

Alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs locks in with Morris with convincing commitment. His funky backyard chicken-scratch multiphonic solo on the African-inspired polyrhythmic vamp of "Knew Something" builds a conceptual bridge between the sonic abstraction of Roscoe Mitchell and the rhythmic frenzy of Afro-Beat. This interest in expressive vocalized effects manifests itself on the title track as well, to exhilarating effect, all bleats, smears and whinnies.

The rhythm section of Shanko and Gray alternately complements and contrasts with Morris and Hobbs. Occasionally vamping over mid-tempo grooves, their contributions may not be as immediately noticeable as the work on the front line. While navigating Morris' tricky modulating meters, however, their creative interaction and highly developed call and response interplay establish them as essential collaborators, not merely timekeepers. There are a few moments where the pair takes the stage, though: Luther Gray gets a chance to throttle his drum kit at the close of "Smear Spring" and Shanko contributes a lyrically assured solo on "King Cobra." Everyone gets a solo feature on the closing title track, the record's conceptual highpoint.

Jazz guitar fans can rejoice in the knowledge that Morris has decided not to abandon his first love. A stunning album and a welcome return to form, Beautiful Existence is one of the year's finest jazz guitar records, if not one of the finest period.


Track Listing: Smear Spring; Some Good; Knew Something; Real Reason; King Cobra; Beautiful Existence.

Personnel: Joe Morris: guitar; Jim Hobbs: alto saxophone; Timo Shanko: bass; Luther Gray: drums.

Title: Beautiful Existence | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
In Pictures
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Shock Axis

Shock Axis

Relative Pitch Records
2016

buy
Balance

Balance

Clean Feed Records
2014

buy
Plymouth

Plymouth

RareNoiseRecords
2014

buy
 

Part And Parcel

Kedar Entertainment Group
2013

buy

Related Articles

Read Making Other Arrangements CD/LP/Track Review
Making Other Arrangements
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: April 19, 2018
Read Music in Motian CD/LP/Track Review
Music in Motian
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: April 19, 2018
Read Descansado - Songs For Films CD/LP/Track Review
Descansado - Songs For Films
by John Ephland
Published: April 19, 2018
Read Bright Force CD/LP/Track Review
Bright Force
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 19, 2018
Read Simbiose CD/LP/Track Review
Simbiose
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 18, 2018
Read For Lew CD/LP/Track Review
For Lew
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 18, 2018
Read "Overneath" CD/LP/Track Review Overneath
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 15, 2018
Read "Mogoya" CD/LP/Track Review Mogoya
by James Nadal
Published: May 14, 2017
Read "The Sun Though the Rain" CD/LP/Track Review The Sun Though the Rain
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 31, 2017
Read "Short Notice" CD/LP/Track Review Short Notice
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 30, 2017
Read "A Social Call" CD/LP/Track Review A Social Call
by James Nadal
Published: May 25, 2017
Read "Conversations" CD/LP/Track Review Conversations
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 15, 2017