354

Joe Morris: Beautiful Existence

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Joe Morris: Beautiful Existence 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.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Pat Metheny Pat Metheny
guitar
Ornette Coleman Ornette Coleman
sax, alto
Nels Cline Nels Cline
guitar, electric
Tim Berne Tim Berne
saxophone
Joe McPhee Joe McPhee
reeds
Dave Weckl Dave Weckl
drums
Sonny Sharrock Sonny Sharrock
guitar, electric
David S. Ware David S. Ware
sax, tenor
Julius Hemphill Julius Hemphill
sax, alto

More Articles

Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 26, 2017
Read This Is Nate Najar CD/LP/Track Review This Is Nate Najar
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Joy Comes Back CD/LP/Track Review Joy Comes Back
by James Nadal
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Apocalypse CD/LP/Track Review Apocalypse
by Julian Derry
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "The Third Decade" CD/LP/Track Review The Third Decade
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: April 16, 2016
Read "Saturday Songs" CD/LP/Track Review Saturday Songs
by Budd Kopman
Published: June 19, 2016
Read "Looking Back" CD/LP/Track Review Looking Back
by Jim Olin
Published: March 8, 2016
Read "Saga Thirteen" CD/LP/Track Review Saga Thirteen
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 29, 2016
Read "The Long Road" CD/LP/Track Review The Long Road
by Troy Collins
Published: November 20, 2016
Read "Sunflower / Goodbye" CD/LP/Track Review Sunflower / Goodbye
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 28, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!