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Joe Morris: Colorfield

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The representation of dark and light multicolored, rectilinear painted shapes envelops the cover of Colorfield from Joe Morris on ESP Disk. Analogously, the music from Morris on electric guitar, Steve Lantner on piano and Luther Gray on drums creates an equally diverse layering effect, as Morris takes care to describe in the liner notes.

The rise and fall of these layers among the three instrumentalists jettisons the music out of the flatness portrayed on the cover into an aural multi-dimensionality emanating from the recording. This multi-dimensionality pierces the musical field with irrefutable tensions that bring to light the sensibility which infuses Morris’ intent. A stark even-handedness is especially evident in the up-tempo “Transparent,” where Morris establishes himself directly as the melody-maker. No matter how long his melodies take to evolve within his method of fast-paced, nearly microtonal, picking of phrases that include slurred notes or half glissandos within defined tonal limits, the melodies consistently have Lantner and Gray providing familial underpinnings.

Lantner and Gray supply the timbral nutrients for Morris’ uniform, yet ever-changing, growth. The pianist magnifies the sparkle of Morris’ already full-speed-ahead intensity in “Bell Orange Curves.” In “Silver Sun,” Lantner’s rapid fingering ornaments and varies the abstract content that the guitar presents to the point where his momentum carries him into a private exploration of the keyboard. In “Purple Distant,” the tempo slows; Lantner’s chords chart the surface not unlike the way in which Gray has applied the drumming all along, as a constant, sometimes muted canvas off which the guitar and the piano can spring. Especially noticeable in his solo in “Bell Orange Curves,” Gray manipulates his sticks or mallets in snare, cymbal and tom combinations so cohesively and with the subtlest of rhythms that his compatibility with the guitar and piano threads is no subject for debate.

Originally Published