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June 30 - July 7, 2000

[Music Reviews]

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*** Joe Morris Quartet


(Knitting Factory)

In his thoughtful liner notes, guitarist Joe Morris writes, "We in this group know that we are playing for an audience that is listening for an experience new to the time they live in, which in its presentation is about them and how they view themselves in the world." That's a heavy expectation to impose on one's music. Yet Morris and crew -- violist Matt Maneri, bassist Chris Lightcap, drummer Gerald Cleaver -- live up to it as they slip between the pastoral and the ecstatic.

This CD unreels the bulk of two sets from last November 6. It also catches the players laying into a four-way melodic trip on "Matter of Fact," then diverting into purely improvised sheets of sound -- clusters of dissonant tones or melodic fragments, sometimes strings of notes that appear disjointed but over a few measures begin to speak a kind of emotional Morse code. Morris uses the high end of his guitar to guide the others, his little interventions of bright melody cueing each to stop or solo. What's consistently exciting isn't just the Quartet's exceptional level of interplay and invention -- there's also the matter of sound. Each player has a rich, commanding, individual musical voice that's honey for ears. Plus, they never repeat tonal, melodic, or harmonic ideas in these performances -- an astonishing, brilliant feat.

-- Ted Drozdowski
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