Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Joe Morris, William Parker and Gerald Cleaver - Altitude (AUM Fidelity, 2012)

Guitarist and occasional bassist Joe Morris leads an exciting trio with Gerald Cleaver on drums and William Parker on bass on this beautifully improvised program. The band is assertive and communicative throughout combining energy music with threads of structure and nuance. The tracks on this album are named for differing layers of the Earth’s atmosphere, beginning with “Exosphere” where sharp, jagged guitar meets deep full sounding bass and clattering drums in an extraordinary performance that lasts nearly half an hour. The collective improvisation borders on mind reading at times as wave upon wave of musical ideas flow forth from the trio. Within the performance, there is a lengthy bass and drum section that stretches space and time in an elastic fashion. The music returns to a fast and exciting trio improvisation that crackles with shards of electricity. Throbbing bass and drums lay down a hypnotic foundation on “Thermosphere” leading to an excellent three-way conversation. Parker switches to bowed bass which adds some terrific texture and shading when played against the leader’s guitar and Cleaver’s rhythmic drumming. There is also a very interesting dialogue section for bowed bass and guitar with Cleaver ever so gently cross hatching around the edges. “Troposphere” becomes nearly incantatory with chanted sounds and vocals in the background along with deeply rhythmic bass and percussion. Morris’s guitar has a brighter tone on this track which blends in perfectly and helps build the music to a fast and powerful collective improvisation. Finally, “Mesosphere” keeps the strong bass and drum foundation with vocalization becoming nearly mesmerizing by time Morris enters the music. He leads the group into an intense trio section as the album closes. The music has great heart and intellect and the balance between the two gives the music much of its passionate motion. Cooperation is the key to this very successful recording, with three distinctive voices joining as one to create powerful and thrilling sounds. Altitude - amazon.com

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