The Spanish Donkey [Joe Morris, Jamie Saft, Mike Pride] – Raoul (2015)

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Four years after debuting with XYX, Joe Morris, Jamie Saft and Mike Price aka The Spanish Donkey are back with more commotion.

Morris and Saft have gotten together before on other projects: Slobber Pup, Plymouth and the Red Hill meeting with Wadada Leo Smith are some memorable recent ones just off the top of my head, and Pride is a kindred spirit as his own records prove. Like all of those endeavors, The Spanish Donkey is loud, fuzzy and jam-my. Joe Morris’ guitar is drenched in spaced-out effects, as is Saft’s assortment of keyboards on Hammond and Korg organs, MiniMoog synths and an Echoplex piano. Saft might well be the world champ of the Echoplex piano since it’s a sadly forgotten instrument, stirring up memories of early Weather Report.

Just as well, too, as all of Raoul (from Rare Noise Records) from a sonic standpoint sounds like a record from 1971, around the time when psychedelia reached its logical extreme in the warped blues-meets-free jazz variety of the extended jam. That there are only three tracks listed here is a tip-off that these are greatly extended, too. The first one, “Raoul,” clocks in at over half an hour, with the shortest track “Dragon Fly Jones” still running out to nearly sixteen minutes. This is how they do it live, and there was obviously no thought whatsoever of watering it down in the studio.

The strategy is simple but effective: Joe Morris leads this trio into a Hendrixian psych-blues drenched jams. Saft’s massive organ chords serve as reference points around which Morris orbits, sometimes closely and other times, barely tethered at all. Such a description might roughly fit the original Tony Williams Lifetime gone off the rails and playing without a composition, but Pride takes it even further by often forgoing timekeeping altogether and soloing right alongside the guitar. For both Morris and Pride, it’s not so much the licks but the fury, freakishness and yes, soulfulness (especially on “Behavioral Sink”). There are times where the heavily reverberating pedal effects give the sound such a fuzzy shape it’s hard to know when Joe Morris’ guitar ends and Saft’s keyboards begins; they form a dense, solid state mass of music, mingled with moments of parched sonic terrain.

In all, Raoul is about making a rock noise with base jazz instincts. It’s a dirty job, but there could hardly be three musicians more up to the task than the ones who call themselves The Spanish Donkey.

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 [email protected] .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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