Strings and skins are a combination that forms the crux of countless rhythm sections. Morris and Nicholson have been filling such a role together for years, most notably of late in the trio they share with German reedman Thomas Borgmann. This setting is different, divorced of a firmly designated melodic voice, but the music these two forge together is no less challenging or immersive. Morris’ commonly covers the pair’s melodic bases whether via voice or bass, but Nicholson’s supply of percussion voices also assumes this role periodically. During “Sketches of (Delilah)” the drummer’s delicate bells serve as a recurring referent to the theme and provide gentle contrast to Morris’ more impassioned strums. The bulk of pieces are quiet and introspective by design requiring close listener attention and patience. As an early example of this demanding dynamic portions of the early “Wisdom of Procreation unravel at the edges of audible perception.
The opening “AfroAmerind” alights on an incantatory acro preface soon dissolving into a chant driven vamp. Nicholson is at his most animated here moving from gravitational snare rolls to eddying cymbal spray while Morris’ virile throb coats the rhythmic core of the piece. Incidentally an earlier quartet version of this piece stretched to thrice the length can be found on Denis Charles’ indispensable Queen Mary (Silkheart). “Chazz” proves the perfect homage to Mingus capturing the bassist’s adroit predilection for bouncing string plucks that range the length of the fingerboard. Nicholson’s obdurate press rolls bifurcated by brusque cymbal accents offers robust comment to Morris’ tensile patterns eventually suffusing into a well-conceived solo that takes the piece out. “NYC” is similarly infused with forward momentum and the duo dives into a spirited exchange of ideas calling and answering each other’s improvisations at a velocious clip. Shorn down the center into two distinct statements, “Ok, In Five Minutes/Wee” is an extended chance to hear each man in isolation. The piece begins with a dense exposition from Nicholson and wraps up with a circuitous bowed/sung recital by Morris.
The spare instrumentation may be initially off-putting to some. But Morris and Nicholson exude a confidence in their collective music making likely to allay listeners with doubting ears. Curiously enough this release predates one by another powerhouse bass/drum pair, William Parker and Hamid Drake ( Piercing the Veil also reviewed in this issue of AAJ). An instant opportunity for thoughtful juxtaposition, it will be exciting to see how these two duos stack up through close comparison.
CIMP on the web: http://www.cadencebuilding.com
Track Listing: AfroAmerind/ Wisdom of Procreation/ Chazz/ Sketches of (Delilah)/ NYC/ In Distant Tongues/ OK, In Five Minutes/Wee/ Shimuzu Doll/ Reflection of Hip Hop.