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Joe Morris: Colorfield

Jerry D'Souza By

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Challenges have been part of Joe Morris' life as a musician. He has long established his reputation as a guitarist on the improvised music scene playing with several high priests of the genre. More than this, he has raised the bar for himself in a constant state of reinvention.

Long active in Boston, Morris was in several improvising contexts ranging from solo to large ensembles, his approach and perspective a seamless fit. In the 1980s he helped organize the Boston Improvisers Group which, despite changing shape through its personnel, always made a vital contribution in its ability to articulate "the different."

On Colorfield, Morris settles into a trio outing that dispenses with a bassist, as he explains in the liner notes, to allow the music to flow in any direction, and for the trio to imply the underlying rhythm. Into this unfettered atmosphere come three minds that link and provide music that is as quietly stimulating as it is energetically stirring.

Colorfield is a concept where patches of color make up a painting. The trio sets up its own quilt building on improvisation through melodic linear developments and densely textured collaborations.

"Transparent" is filtered through Steve Lantner's reflective piano and drummer Luther Gray's percussive beat, as Morris moves in with single note interjections. The way in which the three communicate is riveting. Morris and Lantner have a quiet dialogue of pastel shade, while Gray adds an array of rhythm imbuing deeper hues. The motifs may seem to be at a tangent but the logic is resolute in the emotion the trio conveys.

"Bell Orange Curves" is an expansive track, giving each musician plenty of individual room. The texture moves from the guitar's early dynamic of bop into thick atmospherics that evolve on Morris' gradually heated work. The guitarist lets notes fly—flattening them, acknowledging melody and stirring a stunning whirl of ideas with his intuitive progressions. Lantner, who initially comps, gets out of that groove and sets up a parallel path to Morris. His playing is coiled yet tensile and, as he begins to come up front, he uses space and trajectory to effectively transpose direction. Gray's sense of timing, harmony and pulse are indelible facets of the music, coming into the spotlight with a marvelously conceived solo outing; tempo and time conceived in the womb of multiphonics.

Morris, Lantner and Gray are both subtle and powerful; it is the balance of these attributes that makes Colorfield a CD of highly crafted artistry.

Track Listing: Transparent; Silver Sun; Purple Distant; Bell Orange Curves.

Personnel: Joe Morris: guitar; Steve Lantner: piano; Luther Gray; drums.

Title: Colorfield | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ESP Disk

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