Joe Morris - Rebus (Clean Feed, 2007)
I can't help but wondering if this album isn't named after Ian Rankin's fictional detective - one of my favorite mystery series (probably wishful thinking on my part). While the music doesn't echo the streets of Edinburgh, it does reflect some of the edginess and violence of noir crime drama. Morris returns to guitar, his original instrument, while multi-instrumentalist Ken Vandermark plays only tenor saxophone, arguably his strongest horn, and Luther Gray holds down the drum chair. This album is made up of six freely improvised untitled performances, which are simply numbered one through six. The first four evolve at a furious pace, with Morris sparking off shards of fragmented guitar, and Vandermark responds with squalls of saxophone, while Gray shimmers. "Rebus 5" grows more abstract with Vandermark blowing long smears across a choppy beat from Morris and Gray, before all three take flight in an intense collective improvisation. "Rebus 6" finishes things up with a lengthy improvisation that features long passages of Morris and Gray interacting well. Morris' guitar has always had a percussive element, so it is fun to hear him interact directly with a drummer. Fans of freewheeling, unfettered improvisation will find a lot to enjoy in this exciting and challenging music.
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