Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Music I Liked And Didn't - 8/30/07 - 9/5/07

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JOE MORRIS/KEN VANDERMARK/LUTHER GRAY: Rebus CD (Clean Feed) - Portugal’s respectable and always interesting Clean Feed imprint brings us these six improvisations from the trio of Joe Morris (guitar), Ken Vandermark (saxophone), and Luther Gray (drums). Although it is not always readily apparent in the mix and nothing else (such as the writing credits), besides the listing of Morris’ name first, on this CD would necessarily indicate it - Morris is the leader on this date and the man that ties it all together.

On the majority of the tracks, Vandermark, who on this date focuses only on the tenor saxophone, is clearly the “lead” soloist. As such, he is excellent in all settings, whether adding minimalist skronk, crafting soulful phrases, or pursuing aggressive solos. Gray is solid throughout this disc, as well, keeping the proceedings moving along nicely, while also adding tasteful accents and colorful splashes of sound. Which brings us to Morris, the all-star utility player on this set. For example, in “Rebus 3”, Morris’ guitar work contributes beautiful textures to the sonic foundation for Vandermark’s solo flights of fancy in a style that recalls William Parker’s recent work on the hypnotic douson ngoni. On the next track “Rebus 4”, Morris engages Vandermark in a fiery dual freedom chase. Then, on “Rebus 5”, Morris focuses mainly on the lower register of the guitar and his playing takes on more of a role traditionally associated with the bass, reflecting, undoubtedly, his recent studies on that instrument. Still, on other tracks, such as “Rebus 2” and “Rebus 6”, Morris employs more familiar contemporary jazz guitar moves, providing both artistic comping support and pointillistic leads. Masterful musicianship, combined with stylistic diversity, makes “Rebus” an intriguing and satisfying release that features some of Morris’ most transcendent work since his efforts on the great “Eloping with the Sun” album from a few years ago.

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Running Count For The Year

Adds 86/83%

Did Not Add 18/17%

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