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April 1999

Joe Morris
A Cloud of Blackbirds
AUM Fidelity

Members of guitarist Morris' quartet here include violinist Mat Maneri, bassist Chris Lightcap and drummer Jerome Deupree. They play free jazz with passion and discipline. Among the most original guitarists to emerge since 1980, Morris' solos have an angular quality. He plays both flurries of notes and spare phrases during which he's thinking from interval to interval, trying to make the shape of his lines as distinctive as possible. His playing isn't heavily amplified by today's standards, but is percussive and relatively staccato. He makes frequent use of the upper register. Also in top form is Maneri, a consummate musician who plays brilliantly in a variety of settings. He's got outstanding chops but often keeps them under wraps. Here, however, he opens up at times and plays long, complex lines with blistering intensity. Arguably Morris' best album.

Originally published in April 1999
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