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Morris, Joe / Damon Smith: Gusts Against Particles  [VINYL] (Open Systems Records)

The first concentrated duo of two improvisers who have worked together in other groupings since 2006 from guitarist Joe Morris and double bassist Damon Smith, recording a set of five extended and technically stunning conversations, a mesh of texture and motion through charged creative drive, merging their strings among often inexplicable technique to create thrilling dialogs.
 

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product information:

Personnel:



Joe Morris-guitar

Damon Smith-double bass


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This LP is the first release for Open Systems and is a limited, hand numbered edition of 200 copies.

Label: Open Systems Records
Catalog ID: OPENSYSREC-001
Squidco Product Code: 30256

Format: LP
Condition: New
Released: 2021
Country: USA
Packaging: LP
Recorded on June 10th, 2019, by Joe Morris.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Duets are conversations, pure and simple. They can be long threads, emphatic, full of query and answer, or emotion and subtlety. At best, they have all the hallmarks and inside commentary of an old relationship, but even first-time meetings can feel like the participants have known one another for ages. You might know that feeling, too: someone you've been aware of and finally get to spend time with, over the minutes or hours that follow a gentle easing-in becomes a gush of ideas and rejoinders. Joe Morris (b. 1955, New Haven, CT) and Damon Smith (b. 1972, Spokane, WA) have traveled in similar improvised music circles for decades, though Gusts Against Particles is their first duo and first proper album together. The two met in 2006 under the guise of sessions for Healing Force, a super-group CD put together by guitarist Henry Kaiser to explore the late music of Albert Ayler. At that time Smith was living in the Bay Area and cutting his teeth in its free music scene while Morris was based out East, teaching at the New England Conservatory and leading a number of harmonically and rhythmically game-changing small ensembles.

Flash forward 13 years and Smith was living and working in Boston, performing with artists like pianists Pandelis Karayorgis and Eric Zinman, drummers Ra Kalam Bob Moses and Curt Newton, trombonist Jeb Bishop, and cornetist Stephen Haynes. Just prior to the bassist's 2019 relocation to St. Louis, a few concerts were set up with Morris alongside this studio recording. Of Morris, Smith says "I got into his work pretty soon after getting into the music. I love that he knows free jazz as well as the European traditions. He is well versed in the harmonic language of Jimmy Lyons, which is foundational for me since I came up as [alto saxophonist] Marco Eneidi's understudy. Playing with him is more like playing with a horn player than a guitarist. It is unlike playing with [Sandy] Ewen or Kaiser. The main thing about playing with him is I am able to think and play faster and more effortlessly than on my own."

Morris has also worked frequently as a contrabassist, though the guitar is his primary and longest-lasting mode of expression. He's performed and recorded in duo with other legendary bassists in free music, people like William Parker, Barre Phillips, and Christian Weber, not to mention in deep dialogues with other modern instrumental travelers (eg. reedist Anthony Braxton, saxophonist Evan Parker, trumpeter Nate Wooley, pianist Matthew Shipp, and guitarist Mary Halvorson). So, there is a lot of history to reckon with, as well as a lot of instantaneous creation. As Morris thinks back to meeting Smith and subsequent experience, he notes that "[Damon's] playing expresses the pulse much more now on the bass than he did back then... I never generalize in any way about the particulars of anyone I play with. I listen for very specific things no matter who I play with, and I respond and interact in very specific ways depending on what I hear from them and what they do in response to me."

In terms of the dialogic meat, Morris and Smith are both masters of an expanded but very distinct palette, the guitarist using muting objects, pedals, and picking motions that create a hive of sounds from scrabbled density to ghostly drabs hanging between nodes of a western scale. Smith is graceful and also knows how to manhandle the bass, interweaving additional bows, brushes, woody palm-swabs and plastic chain as well as making his presence known through a trusty, surefooted pizzicato walk. The array of string sounds on these pieces is dazzling and often dense, and it's sometimes hard to believe this music comes from two people composing spontaneously. Morris puts it this way: "the inspiration is in life and the decades of trying to grow as an artist. The music is made with skill and quick decision making in the moment, using the knowledge I have about improvising. That includes close listening and doing the best I can to decipher the other musicians' contributions." Now, the onus is on you, the listener, to enter the conversation and the experience."-Clifford Allen



"[...] Gusts Against Particles presents a duet between Joe Morris on guitar and Damon Smith on double bass. The latter is the perfect vehicle for textural resonance. Its output is, after all, both tactile and audible. You feel it as much as you hear it when the rattle and thump of fat string against slim wood slithers across your living room floor. Perhaps because he has recorded extensively on both instruments, Morris always knows how to ring the right bell at the right moment.

The first cut — 'Waves of Extension' — creates a sort of doppler effect as guitar and bass race furiously along in parallel. The notes seeming to bunch up and constrict one another, as if there is simply not enough room for them in the air. At times, the big instrument goes almost perfectly tactile, not so much slither as a serrated blade cutting through bark.

In the next — 'Equalization Staggering' — the bass is used more percussively, and you get the feeling that something really big is lumbering your way. Godzilla, perhaps, for the guitar occasionally sprinkles in some almost Asian strings.

By the final cut — 'Multiple Presences' — the cast of textural characters has expanded, and the pulse intensified to an almost geological intensity. If you want to witness communication in a very refined vocabulary of sounds, you won't do better than this.

I must say something about the title. Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover and somethings you can't judge a piece of free jazz without its title. Gusts Against Particles needs to be taken literally. Airborne particles move in random ways under the power of wind. When is alive, it sometimes swims against the tide."-Kenneth Blanchard, The Free Jazz Collective


This LP is the first release for Open Systems and is a limited, hand numbered edition of 200 copies.

Get additional information at The Free Jazz Collective

Artist Biographies

"Joe Morris was born in New Haven, Connecticut on September 13, 1955. At the age of 12 he took lessons on the trumpet for one year. He started on guitar in 1969 at the age of 14. He played his first professional gig later that year. With the exception of a few lessons he is self-taught. The influence of Jimi Hendrix and other guitarists of that period led him to concentrate on learning to play the blues. Soon thereafter his sister gave him a copy of John Coltrane's OM, which inspired him to learn about Jazz and New Music. From age 15 to 17 he attended The Unschool, a student-run alternative high school near the campus of Yale University in downtown New Haven. Taking advantage of the open learning style of the school he spent most of his time day and night playing music with other students, listening to ethnic folk, blues, jazz, and classical music on record at the public library and attending the various concerts and recitals on the Yale campus. He worked to establish his own voice on guitar in a free jazz context from the age of 17. Drawing on the influence of Coltrane, Miles Davis, Cecil Taylor,Thelonius Monk, Ornette Coleman as well as the AACM, BAG, and the many European improvisers of the '70s. Later he would draw influence from traditional West African string music, Messian, Ives, Eric Dolphy, Jimmy Lyons, Steve McCall and Fred Hopkins. After high school he performed in rock bands, rehearsed in jazz bands and played totally improvised music with friends until 1975 when he moved to Boston.

Between 1975 and 1978 he was active on the Boston creative music scene as a soloist as well as in various groups from duos to large ensembles. He composed music for his first trio in 1977. In 1980 he traveled to Europe where he performed in Belgium and Holland. When he returned to Boston he helped to organize the Boston Improvisers Group (BIG) with other musicians. Over the next few years through various configurations BIG produced two festivals and many concerts. In 1981 he formed his own record company, Riti, and recorded his first LpWraparound with a trio featuring Sebastian Steinberg on bass and Laurence Cook on drums. Riti records released four more LPs and CDs before 1991. Also in 1981 he began what would be a six year collaboration with the multi-instrumentalist Lowell Davidson, performing with him in a trio and a duo. During the next few years in Boston he performed in groups which featured among others; Billy Bang, Andrew Cyrille, Peter Kowald, Joe McPhee, Malcolm Goldstein, Samm Bennett, Lawrence "Butch" Morris and Thurman Barker. Between 1987 and 1989 he lived in New York City where he performed at the Shuttle Theater, Club Chandelier, Visiones, Inroads, Greenwich House, etc. as well as performing with his trio at the first festival Tea and Comprovisation held at the Knitting Factory.

In 1989 he returned to Boston. Between 1989 and 1993 he performed and recorded with his electric trio Sweatshop and electric quartet Racket Club. In 1994 he became the first guitarist to lead his own session in the twenty year history of Black Saint/Soulnote Records with the trio recording Symbolic Gesture. Since 1994 he has recorded for the labels ECM, Hat Hut, Leo, Incus, Okka Disc, Homestead, About Time, Knitting Factory Works, No More Records, AUM Fidelity and OmniTone and Avant. He has toured throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe as a solo and as a leader of a trio and a quartet. Since 1993 he has recorded and/or performed with among others; Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Joe and Mat Maneri, Rob Brown, Raphe Malik, Ivo Pearlman, Borah Bergman, Andrea Parkins, Whit Dickey, Ken Vandermark, DKV Trio, Karen Borca, Eugene Chadborne, Susie Ibarra, Hession/Wilkinson/Fell, Roy Campbell Jr., John Butcher, Aaly Trio, Hamid Drake, Fully Celebrated Orchestra and others.

He began playing acoustic bass in 2000 and has since performed with cellist Daniel Levin, Whit Dickey and recorded with pianist Steve Lantner.

He has lectured and conducted workshops trroughout the US and Europe. He is a former member of the faculty of Tufts University Extension College and is currently on the faculty at New England Conservatory in the jazz and improvisation department. He was nominated as Best Guitarist of the year 1998 and 2002 at the New York Jazz Awards."

-Joe Morris Website (http://www.joe-morris.com/biography.html)
5/23/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Damon Smith studied double bass with Lisle Ellis and has had lessons with Bertram Turezky, Joëlle Leandré, John Lindberg, Mark Dresser and others. Damon's explorations into the sonic palette of the double bass have resulted in a personal, flexible improvisational language based in the American jazz avant-garde movement and European non-idiomatic free improvisation. Visual art, film and dance heavily influence his music, as evidenced by his CAMH performance of Ben Patterson's Variations for Double Bass, collaborations with director Werner Herzog on soundtracks for Grizzly Man and Encounters at the End of the World, and an early performance with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.

Damon has collaborated with a wide range of musicians, including: Cecil Taylor, Marshall Allen (of Sun Ra's Arkestra), Henry Kaiser, Roscoe Mitchell, Michael Pisaro, Wadada Leo Smith, Marco Eneidi, Wolfgang Fuchs, Peter Brötzmann and Peter Kowald. After many years in the San Francisco Bay Area, and five great years in Houston, Texas working regularly with Alvin Fielder, Sandy Ewen, David Dove & Chris Cogburn, Damon will move to the Boston area in the fall of 2016. Damon has run Balance Point Acoustics record label since 2001, releasing music focusing on transatlantic collaborations between US and European musicians."

-Balance Point Acoustic Website (https://www.balancepointacoustics.com/damon-smith/)
5/23/2024

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.


Track Listing:



SIDE A



1. Waves of Extension 12:42

2. Multiple Presences 07:24

SIDE B



1. Equalization Staggering 15:54

Related Categories of Interest:


Vinyl Recordings
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Jazz
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Stringed Instruments
Guitarists, &c.
Duo Recordings
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Open Systems Records.


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