Joe Morris – Colorfield (2009)

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by S. Victor Aaron

Joe Morris is fresh-minded guitarist whose uncommon ideas about improvisation, interaction, time, harmonics and phrasing collectively combine to form a unique sound even within the “seen it all/done it all” world of New York’s improvised music scene. And he does it with a tone that’s clear and contemplative. After twenty years of making records of this calibre, Morris rrecently made his first record, Colorfield, for ESP-Disk as a well-established force.

Morris employs a trio of an odd sort for Colorfield; his guitar is joined by piano and drums…no bass. Morris explains that the absence of the bass “is intentional as it allows the flow of the music to go in any direction and allows us to imply the underlying rhythm.” The music itself bears out this concept: the drummer (Luther Gray) is able to communicate with the piano (Steve Lantner) and guitar (Morris) without a middleman and the resulting music flows down a more fluid and naturally random path. Not a clashing of ideas, but instead a harmony of them.

Throughout four, long-form improvisations, Morris and Co. paint tonal colors revealed around loosely-formed shapes, or “fields,” thus, the title. The sometimes dense clusters of sounds are intense, but none are extremely loud or rough. Morris might draw some inspiration about composition from such forebears as Cecil Taylor, but the way it’s applied to the guitar is all Morris. The relatively sparse “Tranparent,” running at less than seven minutes, serves as a kind of intro to the more piercing three 14-15 minute pieces. Through it all, Morris sticks almost exclusively to single-line notes; the rapport between him and Steve Lantner is especially notable on “Silver Sun.” “Purple Distant” is an exploration of a pensive atmosphere, and Gray deftly uses his drums to supply the right timbres to accentuate that mood.” “Bell Orange Curves” takes on the same aggressive character as “Silver Sun,” but here, Lantner is using both extremes of his keyboard, leaving Morris to hold down the tonal middle.

In what has been a very productive year by ESP-Disk standards, Colorfield is the 2009 ESP-Disk to go for if you had to choose just one. Joe Morris continues to follow his own muse as he delivers it with virtuosity and vision.

Colorfield became available for sale on September 22.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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