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Joe Morris plus Ken Vandermark & Hans Poppel: Like Rays

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The potentially difficult instrumentation here (guitar, clarinet/bass clarinet, piano) is belied by the ease with which these strong players create together. Morris is a major contemporary guitar voice, and Vandermark brings the kind of flexibility that we associate with free sax playing to both of his clarinets. Hans Poppel has been around a long time on the European scene, and his experience has made him a good listener; while he doesn’t mind inserting some interesting “inside” cues along the way, he never crowds the other instruments. All three men are exemplary listeners, and that even more than their considerable individual prowess is what makes Like Rays a fine recording. There are moments of subtle understatement as well as bursting intensity, and it all flows along with the collective intent that characterizes free music (or any kind of jazz) when it’s really happening.