Saturday, August 15, 2009

Joe Morris - Wildlife (AUM Fidelity, 2009)

Prolific guitarist and bassist Joe Morris has kept a high profile in 2009, recording as a leader and a co-leader in several interesting settings. On this open ended trio performance, he sticks to acoustic bass, joined by Petr Cancura on tenor and alto saxophones and Luther Gray on drums. The music on this album has a very exciting and organic go for broke feel, reminiscent of the famous loft jazz sessions which took place in New York City during the 1970’s. Morris is a very democratic bandleader, giving space to fellow band members, like Gray’s opening percussion solo on the first track, “Geomantic.” Bass and saxophone join after a few minutes, and the group is off and running on a frenetic collective improvisation. Gray gets another solo turn toward the end of the track and makes the most of it, soloing in a deeply rhythmic and dexterous fashion. “Thicket” takes it’s time developing, like a tiger stalking its prey through the tall grasses of the African savanna, it slowly builds before springing into a ferocious saxophone led cacophony at around the ten minute mark. “Crow” slows things down to a simmering boil, with Cancura developing a deep and luscious tenor tone which melds the breathy passion of Ben Webster with the modern sensibility of David Murray. He (and the trio as a whole) are very patient here, letting the music develop under its own terns, and not rushing to force the action. “Nettle” kicks things back up into gear for the final performance of the album, with Gray and Morris locking into a tight and propulsive groove and Cancura taking his cue to reel off a thoughtful and inspired solo. Morris treats himself to a well deserved solo spot in the middle before everybody comes back to take things out. This was a spirited and exciting album which offered a wide open structure allowing the musicians to show off their creativity in a fun and often thrilling manner. Morris and Gray are typically excellent, but Cancura is a real find, I like his approach to the saxophone, deep and immediate, knowledgeable about the past but driving hard to develop his own conception and tell his own musical story. Hopefully we will hear more from him soon.
Wildlife -

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