a Free Jazz Genius
by Sergio Sorrentino - first part
Joe Morris (1955 ) is one of the greatest guitarists of free jazz and free music . He has numerous albums ( for major labels such as Leo, Aum Fidelity, ECM, Rare Noise) and boasts prestigious collaborations ( Matthew Shipp , William Parker , Joe and Mat Maneri , Butch Morris, and many others).
His style is very personal. Joe combines various inspirations (traditional, classical , avant-garde ) into a single, uninterrupted stream of improvisation always fascinating and highly expressive . His phrasing is always engaging and brilliant . And we can not agree with Gary Giddins when he wrote that " if Ornette Coleman were Jim Hall , he would be Joe Morris."
For lovers of Free Jazz , Joe Morris is undoubtedly their absolute and inimitable guitar hero .
Whether in the form of electricity, is in the acoustics , Joe Morris manages to create effective and engaging free improvisations.
Dear Joe, your style is really unique. Can you tell us something about it? Have you use some standard chromatic lines or scales, patterns, arpeggios, etc...?
I use everything. I still practice scales, arpeggios. My goal with line playing is to arrive at melody and use my melodic ideas as a template that inspires new melodic ideas. I consider that on my worst day my playing will be the default version. . meaning that it will consist of what I have already acquired from my desire to create melody. On my best day there will be something new. It will then become part of my default. So I have built my playing off of my own playing mostly at this point.
For your phrases which musicians have influenced you?
There are so many. I like to know what everyone does. However I owe a great debt to the influence of many saxophonists, namely Jimmy Lyons, Ornette, Dolphy, Coltrane, Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, and also to Cecil Taylor, Monk, Don Cherry, Sirone, Fred Hopkins, Alhaji Bia Konte (the kora master), Django Reinhardt, field recordings of African String music, Olivier Messiaen, Ives, Jimi Hendrix, Rev. Gary Davis, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Baden Powell, John McLaughlin, Derek Bailey, Evan Parker Lowell Davidson and a few million more.
Your playing is very virtuosistic. Do you use some special exercises or methods?
I have had to create some of my own intervallic exercises and cluster fingerings in order to play them in performance, but I always improvise on everything like that all the time so I don’t get too strict about them. I don’t want exercises to replace music. My determination to be expressive and to be respectful of the area of music I endeavor to participate in, means that I have had to work hard to play well enough to lend credibility to what I do. I am quite critical of my playing and I never think of it as virtuosic. I think everyone plays better than I do. I’m always surprised to get that kind of response and very grateful.
.. continues tomorrow ...