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Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris: Possible Universe (Conduction 192)

Mark Corroto By

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With the death of jazzman Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris in 2013, we close the book on one of the most idiosyncratic composers, improvisors, conductors ever to work in creative music. His musical trajectory from a 1970s free jazz cornetist to the originator of his trademark 'Conductions' has been the stuff of legends. Under his baton, he turned the instant composing of free music into a sort of unified field theory of music. One that enveloped all the fundamental forces of music (jazz included) into his theory of everything.

His Conductions were immediate improvisations, but as with all great improvisations, there was an inherent structure. One built upon the DNA of the artist. For Butch Morris, his improvisation was an entire ensemble or orchestra. Through signals, gestures, and symbols, he could will an ensemble to create a new, whole composition, live on stage. This macrocosm of music was created from nothing, or, more likely, the decades of experience Morris and his players brought to the performance.

This Conduction was a performance in 2010 at the Sant'Anna Arresi Jazz Festival in Sardinia. It was number 192 of a total 199 conductions he created from 1985 until his death. While he has worked with classical ensembles, traditional Korean musicians, dancers, actors and turntable artists, the recordings that were released with jazz musicians always seem to gel more than others. The Sant'Anna Arresi concert had a stellar cast with fifteen musicians. There were the saxophonists, Americans David Murray and Greg Ward, British Evan Parker, and Italian Pasquale Innarella. Also here are two trombones, Joe Bowie and Tony Cattano, two bass players, the Chicagoan Harrison Bankhead and Italian Silvia Bolognesi, two guitarists Jean-Paul Bourelly and On Ka'a Davis, two all-star drummers Hamid Drake and Chad Taylor, and the single synthesizer of Alan Silva>

The music was more 'musical' than free jazz and even tread on the philharmonic with Silva painting an orchestral pastiche on "Possible Universe... Part Eight." Morris was open to myriad musics. He paints gorgeous landscapes with brass fills, soaring crescendos, bubbling new musics, blues fragments, and glimpses of Ellingtonian jazz. "Possible Universe... Part Five" could easily be mistaken for an Oliver Nelson piece. Morris' Conductions ooze a cogent structure, and he has the soul (call it the DNA) of a composer. His compositions were a duet between him and a room full of musicians.

Track Listing: Possible Universe... Part One; Possible Universe... Part Two; Possible Universe... Part Three; Possible Universe... Part Four; Possible Universe... Part Five; Possible Universe... Part Six; Possible Universe... Part Secen; Possible Universe... Part Eight.

Personnel: Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris: conductor; David Murray: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Evan Parker: tenor saxophone; Pasquale Innarella: alto saxophone; Greg Ward: alto saxophone; Joe Bowie: trombone; Tony Cattano: trombone; Meg Montgomery: electro trumpet; Ricardo Pittau: trumpet; Jean-Paul Bourelly: guitar; On Ka'a Davis: guitar; Hamid Drake: percussion; Chad Taylor: drums, vibraphone; Harrison Bankhead: double bass; Silvia Bolognesi: double bass; Alan Silva: synthesizer.

Title: Possible Universe (Conduction 192) | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Nu Bop

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