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Joe Morris has made a career of directing creative energy towards new experiences and a fascinating development has been the incorporation of new instruments to his vocabulary. Morris distinguished himself as a guitarist in 1994 with the release of Symbolic Gesture. Many duo, trio and ensemble records followed but Morris was not content simply to refine his musical identity as an electric guitarist. In the last few years, Morris has begun recording solo and ensemble music on acoustic guitar, banjo and double-bass.
Wildlife is not simply a Joe Morris record with two talented sidemen, however. The record is a document of a working band of the same name, with saxophonist Petr Cancura and drummer Luther Gray. The record opens with an extended feature for the drums, the lengthy solo intro segueing to a wonderful sax lead, followed by more spirited percussion. "Thicket" is next, with Morris' bass ostinato bouncing and shifting in color throughout, calling to mind the texture and grounding quality of the kora, an apt functionality given the African influences in Cancura's work elsewhere.
The saxophonist conjures a wide array of moods and timbres, with a crooning sensitivity at one moment (the intro to "Crow," for example) or fragmented echoes of bebop in another ("Nettle"). The final two cuts both feature extended bass solos in the middle and Morris' trademark fluency with shifting texture, register and velocity. The heated propulsion on the final cut takes the CD out with a sense of determination, providing a clear image of an ensemble whose debut is a formidable point of departure.
Track Listing: Geomantic; Thicket; Crow; Nettle.
Personnel: Joe Morris: double-bass; Luther Gray: drums; Petr Cancura: saxophones.