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One night before a show, I had the opportunity to overhear a conversation Joe Morris was having with another member of the audience. I didn't catch a single word, but what struck was the way he accompanied the dialogue on his guitar. Some players might call this process "warming up"but I wonder if Morris is ever "cold." The connections between speech, gesture, and response all flowed naturally from his hands through the unamplified guitar. Unlike a lot of guitarists, Morris has completely overcome the boundaries imposed by his instrument. He has achieved a mind-body fusion that translates into musical expression of the highest order.
On Singularity, Morris performs solo on the unamplified (acoustic) guitar, a departure from his usual electric work. While his plugged-in tone is "clean," the acoustic instrument offers additional possibilities for tone, texture, and resonance. The compositions on this disc (all by Morris) provide a unique setting for him to explore ideas without being restricted by arrangement or formula. Certain passages feature drone-like small-interval alternation; moments later he flies free through scraps and shards of fiery expressionism. Other pieces feature elaborate chordal development and more obviously structured progression. A look at the titles of these tunes offers a hint at the abstract purity of the ideas contained within.
Morris rarely offers more than a hint at the harmonic elements involved in his playing; the rest of the sound space is left wide open for the listener to fill in. Understatement, even during torrents of notes, is the operative concept behind the guitarist's work. Swing becomes an entirely new feel when it's dosed out in two or three-note units. While Morris has done some of his most exciting work in trios, quartets, and larger groups, the solo setting offers a completely unfettered opportunity for him to explore ideas. The cover photo on Singularityhis daughter's outstretched hands holding a floweroffers a completely a propos metaphor for Morris's music. It's just innocent enough to grasp the highest forms of beauty.
I was first exposed to jazz as a middle school band student. A college ensemble passed through and put on a concert for the band students (of which I was one). The level of mastery and musicianship blew me away, intimidated, and inspired me
I was first exposed to jazz as a middle school band student. A college ensemble passed through and put on a concert for the band students (of which I was one). The level of mastery and musicianship blew me away, intimidated, and inspired me. Try as I might, I was never able to achieve a high enough level of competency to perform at the level I was first and subsequently exposed to. Regardless, I was hooked on jazz and remain so to this day.