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Joe Morris Quartet: At the Old Office

Guitarist Joe Morris is virtuous about placing himself in disparate contexts and employing varied playing strategies, but if any pattern has emerged for him the last few years, it’s that most of those situations have produced incredibly dense music. In lovely contrast is the quartet featured on At the Old Office, a live date from the old Knitting Factory space recorded in November 1999. Viola player Mat Maneri, bassist Chris Lightcap and drummer Gerald Cleaver-the same lineup on last year’s excellent Underthru (OmniTone)-construct a spacious, rhythmically buoyant setting for extended stretches of lyrical soloing. Maneri’s unhurried, serpentine lines cry with microtonal subtleties, while Morris unspools shimmering but knotty threads of notes; they complement one another’s solos with careful interjections, the guitarist rumbling ominously behind Maneri, while the viola player darts between the tiny spaces left by Morris.

What most distinguishes this group from Morris’ other projects is the rhythm section: Cleaver manages to swing while breaking down time and Lightcap limns the proceedings with clarity, although neither one of them is afraid of ratcheting up the energy level when things get a little static.

Originally Published