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

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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.


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.”


Free Jazz: John Hébert’s Byzantine Monkey

July 1, 2009


In his four-star review of bassist/composer John Hébert‘s newly released debut, Byzantine Monkey (Firehouse 12 Records), on his popular blog, Free Jazz, Stef Gijssels writes, “Hébert is accompanied by some of today’s best modern jazz musicians…fully in dedication of the music he plays, as it should be, and with the exception of the last two tracks, he rarely brings his bass to the forefront. Unpredictability is the motto here (what do you expect from a byzantine monkey?). The highlight of the album is the second track, ‘Acrid Landscape’, a really beautiful composition that has it all…a strong debut.”


Farmers By Nature Reviewed By AMG, Free Jazz

February 13, 2009

Gerald Cleaver/William Parker/Craig Taborn’s Farmers By Nature (AUM Fidelity), released earlier this week, continues to earn positive reviews.

The All Music Guide‘s Thom Jurek writes, “Free jazz and free improv do mainly hail from—and thrive in—urban centers, but seldom have they felt this organic in the last decade or so. The title and the acoustic instrumentation—as well as the snapshots of various plants and flowers on the cover—all hint at the teeming life to be found inside this music that was recorded in performance at The Stone on June 19, 2008. It gives up its secrets slowly, but the gems hidden in this sonic earth are plentiful, poetic, and remarkable.”

On his popular blog, Free Jazz, Belgian reviewer Stef Gijssels adds, “Sometimes you don’t need to listen long to an album to notice its value. And this one surely redefines the piano trio as it is known. The wealth of the music is not only generated from the interesting soundscapes they create, but also from the use of their instruments, which is broad and creative without being too experimental…three musicians reacting fast to one another, needing only a hint to move the piece on in the same coherent direction, like leaves sprouting in fast forward from growing plants. Don’t miss it.”