The Blogosphere Hearts Joe Morris

October 29, 2009

Excerpts from recent blog reviews of the Joe Morris Quartet’s Today On Earth (AUM Fidelity):

“The music, performed by Morris (guitar), Jim Hobbs (alto saxophone), Timo Shanko (bass) and Luther Gray (drums), holds up quite impressively under repeated listenings. The tracks are fairly long (4 over 10 minutes and only 1 under 7), but several of them move so gracefully (‘Observer’, ‘Ashes’) it’s easy to get lost in the sonic world the quartet creates. It’s been over 3 decades since Joe Morris first came to critical notice and he continues to grow as a composer and musician, creating challenging music for open minds.”
Richard Kamins, Hartford Courant’s See! Hear!

“Joe Morris is having one of them crazy years. Nothing can seem to stop him, as he is releasing one CD after another. The latest—and best!—one is this studio session with his quartet. One of the best jazz albums of 2009.”
François Couture, Monsieur Delire

“Four of the seven tracks on Today On Earth clock in at 10 or 11 minutes, and all of that time is well spent. Of his recent releases, this album is one of the best place to start (behind the Flow Trio), since its places his adventurous improvisational chops in a setting that makes them stand out even more.”
Mike Shanley, shanleyonmusic

“…the main strength of the album is the truly wonderful compositions, which are refined, carefully structured, compelling and beautifully performed…here [Morris’] playing is much closer to the traditional jazz guitar, and I must say, it suits him well. And the band is absolutely stunning, in its pretenseless, unassuming playing, yet delivering a rare level of combined accuracy of tone and interaction, giving space, dialoguing well, giving the right emphasis at the right time, and adding loads of emotional depth: truly great. But as said, the real treat are the compositions, with themes like ‘Animal’ or ‘Observer’ that will keep ringing in your head long after you’ve stopped listening to the music.”
Stef Gijssels, Free Jazz


Free Jazz: Harris Eisenstadt’s Canada Day (Clean Feed)

October 12, 2009


This past Saturday on his influential blog, Free Jazz, Stef Gijssels weighed in on drummer/composer Harris Eisenstadt‘s new release, Canada Day (Clean Feed).

“I’m sure that many mainstream lovers will also enjoy this one,” he writes, “yet the album has at the same time a kind of unpredictability, a freshness of approach together with an enveloping warmth that is quite unusual. And that sensitivity is to be found in the compositions, the playing and in the interaction. With this band Eisenstadt not only brings a synthesis of many jazz subgenres (from the cool vibe sounds of the sixties to the kind of more modern Dave Douglas approach), but he brings it a step further, showing how modern music can be at the same time clever, rich in texture and emotionally intense.”


The Fonda/Stevens Group’s Memphis Released Today

September 29, 2009

Playscape Recordings officially welcomes The Fonda/Stevens Group to its roster with the September 29th release of Memphis, the eminent ensemble’s 11th recording.

Only the fourth studio release in the band’s two-decade existence, Memphis takes its name from Stevens’ composition, “Memphis Ramble”, one of ten tracks documented here for the first time following the band’s March 2008 U.S. tour.

Co-led by bassist/composer Joe Fonda and pianist/composer Michael Jefry Stevens, who celebrate the 25th anniversary of their first collaboration in 2009, The Fonda/Stevens Group also features trumpeter Herb Robertson and drummer Harvey Sorgen.

“Their quartet is a fine example of how a long established band can gel without becoming predictable, with many of its moves unforeseeable in advance,” explains AllAboutJazz.com’s Nic Jones. “This helps to keep the music fresh, but it’s the level of collective empathy that often takes it to another level…it’s clear on ‘Memphis Ramble’ that the group had reached a level of understanding in excess of even its usual working relationship.”

“The great thing about the band is its human warmth and musical openness,” writes Stef Gijssels on his popular blog, Free Jazz. “They can play AACM-like music (‘In The Whitecage’), post-bop (‘For My Brother’), blues, Stanko-esque melancholy (‘Whole Majesty’), free improvisation (‘Yes This Is It!’) and spontaneous chants (‘Memphis Ramble’)…it is fun, musically entertaining and interesting.”

The Downtown Music Gallery’s Bruce Lee Gallanter adds, “What makes this band great is that they can swing their asses off, go out, come back and stop on a dime. Their jubilant spirit is infectious. This is the one disc that makes me feel so good every time I hear it.”

The Fonda/Stevens Group will celebrate its latest record with a two-week, eight-country European tour in the second half of October. Details can be found here.


Jazz Journal: Morris/Cancura/Gray’s Wildlife

September 3, 2009


The September issue of the U.K.’s Jazz Journal features a review of Joe Morris/Petr Cancura/Luther Gray’s Wildlife (AUM Fidelity), the recorded debut of their collective trio of the same name.

Simon Adams writes, “The Wildlife trio was conceived by Morris to create spontaneous music with two of his favourite musicians. It improvises openly and collectively, with a great sense of form and momentum. Overall, this is a music that soars and bounces along in a warm-hearted, open way. Much recommended.”


JazzTimes: Garrison Fewell + Michael Musillami

August 28, 2009

The resurgent JazzTimes shows two of our guitarists, Garrison Fewell and Michael Musillami, some love in the newly arrived August/September issue, making its return to active publishing status that much sweeter.

Variable Density Sound Orchestra should be on jazz education syllabi worldwide,” declares Michael J. West in his review of Fewell’s latest release on Boston’s Creative Nation Music. “It demonstrates how even free improvisation depends on musicians listening closely to each other. Guitarist Garrison Fewell’s septet uses some compositional structures, but the real backbone comes from developing and responding to each other’s spontaneous ideas. The products of that chemistry are gorgeous.”

In his review of the Michael Musillami Trio +3’s From Seeds (Playscape Recordings), Chris Kelsey writes, “Vibist Matt Moran, alto saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller join guitarist Musillami in performing his creative, forward-thinking compositions. The music is exceptional in all respects, from the fiery but respectful readings of Musillami’s tortuous compositions to the inspired solo work by one and all…Musillami is at his best when exploiting his nuanced quasi-acoustic sound, as he lays down long, unpredicatable freeboppish lines. Alessi and Moran are excellent, and Ehrlich is brilliant—his playing here is fresh and impassioned.”


AUM Fidelity To Present NYC Label Showcase October 15th

August 13, 2009

AUM Fidelity

On Thursday, October 15th at 7:30 p.m., AUM Fidelity will present a label showcase at New York’s Abrons Arts Center featuring notable performances by three of its artists on one bill. The event will celebrate the release of alto saxophonist Darius Jones‘ debut recording as a bandleader, eminent saxophonist David S. Ware‘s triumphant return to performing after a highly publicized kidney transplant in May, and the first performance of bassist William Parker‘s acclaimed Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra in more than four years.

Jones, the label’s most recent signing, will be performing in support of his October 13th release, Man’ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing) (AUM057). Ware, who unveiled his latest all-star quartet on January’s Shakti (AUM052), before being temporarily sidelined by an urgent and successful search for a kidney donor, will mark his 50th anniversary playing saxophone with a special solo performance. Parker’s Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra, last heard in New York at Vision Festival X in 2005, will present the world premiere of a new composition, “Subsequent Illumination Inscriptions/Light Cottage”, dedicated to George Russell.

AUM Fidelity has documented artists working at the vanguard of the jazz and improvised music scene in New York and beyond since 1997. Guided by its founder, producer and designer Steven Joerg, the label has built a highly regarded catalog of nearly 50 releases, presenting premier works by Rob Brown, Roy Campbell, Daniel Carter, Whit Dickey, Hamid Drake, Kidd Jordan, Mat Maneri, Joe Morris, Roy Nathanson, William Parker and David S. Ware, as well as such all-star groups as In Order To Survive, The Nommonsemble, Other Dimensions in Music, Test and Triptych Myth. It is also a partner in the CaseQuarter label, which is devoted to sacred and spiritual music of the southern U.S. Learn more at http://www.aumfidelity.com

The Abrons Arts Center is located at 466 Grand Street (at Pitt Street) in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Tickets are available for $20 in advance at https://www.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/679665 and for $25 at the door. Advance tickets may also be purchased by phone through Theatermania at (212) 352-3101. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.


Free Jazz: Joe Morris’ Wildlife + Carl Maguire’s Sided Silver Solid

August 4, 2009
Photo by Joshua Ponte

Carl Maguire's Floriculture by Joshua Ponte

Last week, while we were away enjoying an all-too-rare vacation from our electronic devices, Stef Gijssels reviewed both Joe Morris/Petr Cancura/Luther Gray’s debut, Wildlife (AUM Fidelity), and Sided Silver Solid (Firehouse 12 Records), the second release from Carl Maguire’s Floriculture, on his popular blog, Free Jazz.

He succinctly sums up Wildlife by writing,Luther Gray is great. Morris as unpredictable as ever —and I always welcome his lyricism on bass. Cancura is a guy to watch. Enjoy!”

“Carl Maguire creates a musical experience that is really out of the ordinary,” Gijssels declares, “mixing lots of extended techniques, with cinematic imagery, eery sounds and beautiful soloing. It is different, and no matter how much you listen to it, you will discover new things. A great record.”


Wildlife An AvantMusicNews Pick Of The Week

July 23, 2009

Wildlife (AUM Fidelity), the debut recording from the new collective ensemble of the same name featuring Joe Morris (bass), Petr Cancura (saxophones) and Luther Gray (drums), is one of this week’s picks at AvantMusicNews.com.

Critics have also called it “a thoroughly assured outing” (Julian Cowley, The Wire), “a masterful showcase for three brilliant musicians” (Phil Freeman, AllMusic.com) and “the result of a spontaneous process made with a deep awareness of decades of free jazz practice” (Bill Meyer, Dusted).

The band’s next live performance in support of this new release is scheduled for Monday, August 10th at The Local 269 in New York.


iC Media Poll Results: Part 2

July 20, 2009

Print publications

Today we explore the results from the second of five sections of our recent survey of 50 prominent jazz writers and editors.

This section, called Web and print habits, asked about the jazz-related publications, blogs and Web sites these professionals are reading, how they access them, and if what they read there impacts their own work.

As shown in the chart above, we first asked respondents to indicate which of the eight major jazz magazines they read on a regular basis. The list, which featured English-language publications only, included AllAboutJazz-New York, Cadence, DownBeat, Jazz Improv, Jazziz, JazzTimes, Signal To Noise and The Wire. We also made it possible for people to write-in any other publications as well.

The clear winner was AllAboutJazz-New York with 54.5%. The runner-up was Signal to Noise with 51.5%, followed by DownBeat and JazzTimes, which each scored 48.5%. The Wire (39.4%) and Cadence (18.2%) were next, while Jazziz and Jazz Improv each scored less than 10%.

One write-in vote each was cast for Cuadernos de JazzCoda, Improjazz, Jazz Journal and Ritmos del Mundo.

Print influence

We then asked if the coverage in these publications influenced the respondent’s own work (i.e. discovering new releases, coloring their judgement of artists/releases, etc.).

The results (above) were clear as 85.3% answered in the affirmative.

Web sites

Next we asked which jazz-related Web sites respondents visit on a regular basis, again spotlighting eight popular choices and giving people the chance to write-in any others they prefer.

AllAboutJazz.com was the clear favorite with 77.4%, with AllMusic.com finishing a close second with 61.3%. Next came Bagatellen with 32.3%, followed by Jazz.com and NPR Music, which each earned 29%. Avant Music News (16.1%), Jazz Corner (12.9%) and PopMatters (6.5%) also got multiple votes.

A significant number of write-in votes were cast for blogs, which we tackle in the next question, but Point of Departure was a popular choice (an admitted oversight on our part), as were Pitchfork and Dusted.

Web influence

Again, the majority (82.4%) indicated that the content of these sites influence their own work.

When tackling the subject of blogs, we asked respondents to list five of their favorites. Oddly enough, more than half skipped this question completely, and only 37.5% filled in all five slots. Some even dedicated one or more of the slots to expressing their dislike for reading and/or discussing blogs at all.

The calculations don’t apply to write-ins, but the most popular choices were Destination: Out, Do The Math, Free Jazz, Jazz Beyond Jazz, Lerterland and Secret Society.

Blog influence

But this time, when we asked if what they read on these blogs influenced their own work, only 44.4% said yes.

Blog access

When it comes to accessing the blogs they read, the Web is by far the most popular way with 94.1% giving that answer. Using a built-in blog reader in one’s browser and using a stand-alone RSS feed reader represented the rest of the vote with 8.8% each.

Twitter account

Finally, we asked if any of the respondents have a Twitter account.

Unlike with the blogs, everyone who took the survey answered this question, but only 35.3% said yes.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the third section of our survey, Personal Listening Habits, which features questions about writers’ interaction with jazz radio, their preferences for format (CD, MP3 and vinyl) when purchasing music for personal use, and the amount of music they purchase in a given year.

Please stay tuned!


Reminder: Wildlife CD Release Party Tonight At Barbes

July 17, 2009


The collective trio of bassist Joe Morris, saxophonist Petr Cancura and drummer Luther Gray will celebrate the release of their self-titled debut, Wildlife (AUM Fidelity), at Barbès tonight at 8:00 p.m.

The group will also perform at The Local 269 in Manhattan on Monday, August 10th.

Please see our street date post from earlier this week for samples of the positive reviews received by this trio so far.