Spinner: Top 10 Jazz Albums Of 2009

December 31, 2009

Photo by Dylan Morris

Tad Hendrickson’s Top 10 list is now posted at Spinner.com, and we’re pleased to report that the Joe Morris Quartet’s Today On Earth (AUM Fidelity) came out on top. Darcy James Argue’s Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam) placed sixth.

“Here with his old quartet of saxophonist Jim Hobbs, bassist Timo Shanko and drummer Luther Gray,” Hendrickson writes, “Morris is at his most eloquent. He writes for these guys as gracefully as he does for himself, conjuring heartfelt melodies. The group responds with revelatory musical voyages and strong interplay.”

“Oftentimes, I don’t really dig the mix of indie rock and jazz,” he continues in his review of Infernal Machines, “but the big-band compositions here are stunning, right up there with Maria Schneider. The guy is making his debut here with a seriously hot record.”


AAJ-NY: Joe Morris Quartet + Eri Yamamoto Trio

December 29, 2009

In addition to the results of the annual Best of 2009 feature, the January issue of AllAboutJazz-New York also includes new reviews of AUM Fidelity‘s latest releases, the Joe Morris Quartet’s Today On Earth and the Eri Yamamoto Trio’s In Each Day, Something Good (coming January 12th).

“Longtime Morris collaborators Jim Hobbs (saxophone), Timo Shanko (bass) and Luther Gray (drums) all shine throughout this record,” writes reviewer Wilbur MacKenzie of the former. “Hobbs’ solo on ‘Animal’ is nothing short of astounding in its abstract lyricism, replete with throaty vocalizations, dramatic use of negative space and a gradually expanding phrase structure. Morris’ compositions linger in the ear, as the ensemble dynamics in the improvisations always develop and enrich the evocative themes.”

“Yamamoto’s playing, unhurried and unforced, nevertheless demonstrates an active imagination and gift for melody,” declares Robert Iannapollo, “her improvisations avoid sweeping theatrical gestures in favor of focused introspection, in the spirit of someone who stops along the way to pore over the small details of everyday life that often elude those who hurry on. Displaying an intuitive rapport based on umpteen hours of on-the-job repartee, the trio recalls the close commerce and intimate atmosphere of Bill Evans’ classic group, the musical equivalent of an isosceles triangle.”


Signal To Noise: Taylor Ho Bynum, Fonda/Stevens Group, The Fully Celebrated, Darius Jones and Joe Morris

December 14, 2009

The Winter 2010 issue of Signal To Noise arrived this weekend and with it reviews of the latest releases from Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings, the Fonda/Stevens Group, The Fully Celebrated, the Darius Jones Trio and the Joe Morris Quartet.

“Bynum’s compositions consistently engage and amplify the texts [from his sister’s novel, Madeleine is Sleeping],” writes Stuart Broomer in his review of Madeleine Dreams (Firehouse 12 Records), “and the performances are at a high level. Vocalist Kyoko Kitamura ranges from pensive dramatic readings to jazz-inflected vocals and creative improvisations, performing admirably in the divergent settings. The group’s improvisational skills come to the fore on pieces by three great composers—Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington and Sun Ra—whose works are all subtly complementary…the results are driving, focused, expressive performances that make the most of the jazz tradition.”

“After 20 years of musical partnership, pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, bassist Joe Fonda, drummer Harvey Sorgen and trumpeter Herb Robertson have developed a rich chemistry,” declares James Hale. “On Memphis, their 11th recording, the quartet surges with energy—equal parts Stevens’ proclivity for aggresive vamps, Robertson’s slippery slalom runs, and a wrecking crew of a rhythm duo. When the mood turns somber individual members find ways of keeping the tension high, whether its Fonda’s abrasive arco on ‘For My Brother’ or the free segments that alternate with Stevens’ pretty theme on ‘Whale Majesty.'”

“Alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs, bassist Timo Shanko and drummer Django Carranza hammer away at eight slices of groove-based music that is is peppy, incisive and yes, amusing,” explains Jay Collins in his review of Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones (AUM Fidelity). “The Fully Celebrated is a group that doesn’t take themselves too seriously, but the music is of high caliber and a hell of a lot of fun.”

Marc Medwin describes the Darius Jones Trio’s debut, Man’ish Boy (AUM Fidelity), as “a barn-burner from note one. Jones could not have chosen better musicians to enter into his world, with Cooper-Moore and drummer Rakalam Bob Moses enhancing every moan, cry and shriek emanating from his alto.”

Jay Collins calls the Joe Morris Quartet’s second release, Today On Earth (AUM Fidelity), “Morris at his most accessible. His tremendous single-note flurries come to bear immediately on the boppish ‘Backbone’ and the exuberantly swinging ‘Imaginary Solutions.’ The quartet’s keen melodic sense is eveident on ‘Ashes’ and the ruminative ‘Animal,’ especially in Hobbs’s earthy, gripping saxophone playing. Hobbs and Morris’s unison lines against the rhythm section’s restless activity are part of the record’s pleasures. Like Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones, Today on Earth has it all: smart compositional structures that launch tasty, unpredictable improvisations.”


Jazzwise: Joe Morris Quartet’s Today On Earth (AUM Fidelity)

December 2, 2009


The new December 2009/January 2010 issue of the UK’s Jazzwise features a review of the Joe Morris Quartet’s Today On Earth (AUM Fidelity) by Kevin Le Gendre.

“As with the previous release Wildlife, ” he writes, “there is a distinct ensemble voice, a lithe, supple sound comes through, and looks as if it will continue to grow over time. Morris’ rising stature as a composer-leader and soloist is indisputable.”


Paris Transatlantic: Darius Jones Trio + Joe Morris Quartet

November 6, 2009

Clifford Allen reviews the two latest AUM Fidelity releases, the Darius Jones Trio’s Man’ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing) and the Joe Morris Quartet’s Today On Earth, in the Autumn 2009 edition of Paris Transatlantic.

“Darius Jones’ art has an incredible purity and directness—what Cooper-Moore has called a ‘yes, sir’ quality,” Allen explains. “It’s a quality he shares with Sonny Simmons, Marion Brown and Charles Tyler, but the real connection is the respect instilled through absorbing the tradition and living history of musicianship.”

In his review of Today On Earth, Allen writes, “The Joe Morris Quartet plumbs the depths of postbop, building off the skewed rapport between [Jim] Hobbs and Morris: the guitarist’s flinty plucking and behind-the-beat chords are the left hand to the altoist’s acrid right. By now Morris’s longtime working group has established a language wholly its own, an ideal springboard for spindly inversions and lean fantasias.”


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


Darius Jones Trio And Joe Morris Quartet On AUM Fidelity

October 13, 2009

AUM Fidelity is proud to announce the October 13th release of the Darius Jones Trio’s Man’ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing) (AUM057) and the Joe Morris Quartet’s Today On Earth (AUM058).

The first is alto saxophonist/composer Darius Jones‘ debut recording as a leader featuring Cooper-Moore (piano and diddley-bo) and Rakalam Bob Moses (drums).

What the critics say:

“A phenomenal debut, Man’ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing) presents the singular artistry of Darius Jones; a new voice poised to receive widespread acclaim from the jazz underground.”
Troy Collins, AllAboutJazz.com

“…an incredible recording that will make you sing, make you weep and make you marvel. The best music tells you something not only about the musicians, but about yourself. Man’ish Boy is that kind of record. It’s not just good. It’s important. And we are the richer for its existence.”
Jason Crane, PopDose.com

“On Man’ish Boy, alto saxophonist Darius Jones delivers one of the most impressive debuts in recent memory, displaying a remarkably well-developed concept and individual sound. It’s defiant, vulnerable, proud, and weary; there is laughter and sobbing in it. He imbues simple melodies and phrases with huge emotional weight.”
Ed Hazell, PointofDeparture.org

The other is the second release from guitarist/composer Joe Morris‘ quartet featuring Jim Hobbs (alto saxophone), Timo Shanko (bass) and Luther Gray (drums). It’s also the third AUM Fidelity release this year to feature Morris in a prominent role (David S. Ware’s Shakti and Morris/Cancura/Gray’s Wildlife are the others).

What the critics say:

“Morris is clearly an original.”
Andy Hamilton, The Wire

“To my ears, it’s one of his best. There are moments when this band flat-out swings (Gray, again, brings the joy of propulsion to the forefront); yet, the quieter moments are among the most melodic of Morris’s long career (and he does that without the music sounding ‘commercial’). In a year that has already produced many strong CDs, this Joe Morris Quartet release should make a lot of ‘Best of..’ lists and deservedly so.”
Richard Kamins, Hartford Courant

“No one plays the guitar like Joe Morris, with sharply articulated, single-note lines delivered in a dry tone. Besides the clarity of the playing itself, what stands out is the cogency of Morris’s melodies and the tight unison lines of Morris and Hobbs that puts one in mind of the playing of Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. Easily one of my favourite albums of this fast-waning year.”
Mike Chamberlain, HOUR

“Morris is a master of mixing total improvisational freedom with a realization that swing can be just as liberating as skronk, that a clean tone can say as much as, if not more than, a coruscating flood-tide of noise. Indeed, this album is so pretty that its adventurousness may slip right by on the first few listens. In other words, it’s worth spending time with and getting to know.”
Phil Freeman, AllMusic.com

“…Morris maintains a singular approach to the guitar, placing him in the upper echelon of present day improvisers. A brilliant follow-up to Beautiful Existence, and considerably more accessible than some of his more abstract efforts, Today On Earth is a stellar highlight in an exceptional, eclectic discography.”
Troy Collins, AllAboutJazz.com

Jones and his trio will celebrate their new release with a performance at AUM Fidelity’s artist showcase at Abrons Arts Center on Thursday night. Morris and his quartet will perform tomorrow night at The Local 269.


Jazziz: The Fully Celebrated + Michael Musillami

September 24, 2009

The new Fall 2009 issue of Jazziz features reviews of The Fully Celebrated’s Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones (AUM Fidelity) and the Michael Musillami Trio + 3’s From Seeds (Playscape Recordings).

“The album feels fresh and playful,” writes Michael Roberts about the former, “displaying the creative exuberance typically associated with young players in the joy-of-discovery phase. [Alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs’] approach empasizes wit, accessibility and a willingness to venture into disparate stylistic territories…the longtime bandmates can do more than genre-hop. The Fully Celebrated’s heady blend brims with a vitality that hasn’t ebbed with the passage of time.”

“Guitarist Michael Musillami performs one of the best high-wire acts in jazz,” declares Ed Hazell, “walking the line between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ without ever losing his poise. There’s no predicting the direction of any given tune. Arrangements make consistently imaginative and effective use of the horns. Seamlessly assembled and performed, From Seeds features not such a trio plus three as a fully realized sextet.”


PopMatters.com + The Wire Review The Fully Celebrated

August 13, 2009

PopMatters.com’s Scott Hreha and The Wire‘s Philip Clark both weighed in on The Fully Celebrated’s most recent release, Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones (AUM Fidelity), in reviews published this week.

Overall, the arrangements musically capture the latent humor in Hobbs’ song titles and showcase the trio’s incredible rapport.  Together, they’re able to shift on a dime from groove to freedom and back again, falling in and out of time as if affected by a constantly shifting series of magnetic fields.
Whether experimental or unadorned, the album’s production feels like a natural extension of the trio’s talent—something that forward-thinking jazz groups have been chasing since the 1960s, yet is rarely achieved.  This, together with the solid musical performances by Hobbs and his cohorts, makes Drunk On the Blood of the Holy Ones a potent concoction that will hopefully raise the “fully celebrated” of the band’s name from tongue-in-cheek irony to reality.

“Overall, the arrangements musically capture the latent humor in [Jim] Hobbs’ song titles and showcase the trio’s incredible rapport,” Hreha writes. “Together, they’re able to shift on a dime from groove to freedom and back again, falling in and out of time as if affected by a constantly shifting series of magnetic fields… a potent concoction that will hopefully raise the ‘fully celebrated’ of the band’s name from tongue-in-cheek irony to reality.”

Clark adds, “It’s kind of annoying when someone’s been making great music since 1987 but you’ve only just found out. His sharp intensity and machine gun attack when approaching abstract funk has obvious roots in Ornette’s 1980s Prime Time principles…but Hobbs’ immersion in reggae and dub soon asserts itself. ‘Reptoid Alliance’ is peppered with saxophone multiphonics that hit on the backbeats, as he grinds against bassist Timo Shanko’s and drummer Django Carranza’s funk groove.”


October Releases On AUM Fidelity: Darius Jones Trio & Joe Morris Quartet

July 22, 2009
Darius Jones live at Vision Festival XIV by John Sharpe

Darius Jones live at Vision Festival XIV by John Sharpe

On October 13th, AUM Fidelity will release the Darius Jones Trio’s Man’ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing) (AUM057) and the Joe Morris Quartet’s Today On Earth (AUM058).

The first is alto saxophonist/composer Darius Jones‘ debut recording as a leader and features frequent collaborators Cooper-Moore (piano and diddley-bo) and Rakalam Bob Moses (drums). The other is the second release from guitarist/composer Joe Morris‘ quartet featuring Jim Hobbs (alto saxophone), Timo Shanko (bass) and Luther Gray (drums), and the third AUM Fidelity release this year to feature Morris in a prominent role.

Man’ish Boy is a sonic tone poem about me and my life growing up in the South,” Jones explains. “Music was a part of my life from the very beginning and my musical development was very organic. I was always encouraged to be an individual and to find my own voice. The concept of singing never left my musical ideas and there is nothing like the organic and soulful nature of the human voice. I wanted every melody to have a vocal quality to it. When I thought about other musicians that had a deep, organic soulful concept as well, I immediately thought of Bob Moses and Cooper-Moore. They have both developed a singular concept of sound and creativity on their instruments, and the amount of knowledge and experience they have is priceless.”

Jones came to New York from his native Virginia in 2005 and has since displayed his distinctive sound and composing style in a wide variety of genres. In addition to his working trio with bassist Adam Lane and drummer Jason Nazary, which appears here on a special bonus track, he actively performs with Lewis Barnes’ Hampton Roads, the Cooper-Moore Trio, William Hooker’s Bliss (East), Little Women, Mike Pride’s From Bacteria to Boys and Mara Rosenbloom’s Arrival Quartet. He is also a teacher and producer of records by Korean jazz vocalist Sunny Kim and country-folk artist Mary Bragg. Learn more at http://www.myspace.com/blackdajones

Morris follows-up July 2009’s Wildlife (AUM056), his first recording for AUM Fidelity as a bassist, with a return to guitar on Today On Earth featuring the four year-old Joe Morris Quartet. The group traces its history back to 2002 when Morris, Shanko and Gray recorded their trio debut, Age of Everything, for Morris’ own Riti Records. Three became four when Hobbs, Shanko’s longtime collaborator in The Fully Celebrated, was added to the mix for 2005’s Beautiful Existence (Clean Feed). Today on Earth features seven new compositions written specifically for this band. “I always write to the players I’m working with,” Morris explains. “I choose players who can do what I think I want to do, and who push me to play differently. These guys do both.”

A self-taught musician, Morris has forged his own distinctive path as a guitarist for more than three decades. Critics have called him “the preeminent free music guitarist of his generation” (DownBeat), “one of the most profound improvisers at work in the U.S.” (Will Montgomery, The Wire) and “the most exciting guitarist working in the jazz tradition” (Ed Hazell, Boston Phoenix). Since 2002, he has also impressed critics and musicians alike in numerous projects as an acoustic bassist, ushering in the most prolific era of his career. Since the beginning of 2008, he has appeared on nearly 20 recordings, including collaborations with such notable artists as Anthony Braxton, Hamid Drake, William Parker, Barre Phillips, Matthew Shipp and David S. Ware. Learn more at http://www.aumfidelity.com/morris.html