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Joe Morris - MVP LSD

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Artist: Joe Morris

Album: MVP LSD

Label: Riti

Review date: Apr. 9, 2009

Joe Morris’ Riti returns to service with this tribute to the innovative composer/performer Lowell Davidson. Morris’ guitar work is complemented by bassist Jon Voigt and trombonist Tom Plsek, both of whom follow Davidson’s philosophies and musicianship. The chemistry and singularity of purpose is evident throughout this largely sparse but energetic set.

A pioneer of 1960s improvised music as well as a Harvard-trained biochemist, Davidson is represented by a single recording on ESP, which included Gary Peacock and Milford Graves. Morris’ new trio disc draws from Davidson’s graphic scores from the 1980s, with only “Particles” is a newly published composition.

The Riti disc is interesting, in that it illuminates aspects of Davidson’s compositional aesthetic only glimpsed in his ESP session. Even the opening moments of “Blue Sky and Blotches,” bathed in the light of Voigt’s bass harmonics, enter territory that Davidson’s mercurial pianism could only approximate. Voigt executes a series of shimmering tones, each containing a universe of satellite sounds that span the pitch spectrum, dyads and triads thickening the texture. His complex rhythms are echoed by Plsek, who enters with stark percussives and multiphonic ululations. The duo already sounds larger than it is, Morris’ shiny tremolos and tiny pitch swells further contributing to the illusion. Despite the rhythmic complexities, the texture is somehow static, each sound hanging in the others’ shadows, eventually vanishing rather than being supplanted or overpowered.

As with most engaging music, so much informs every moment of MVP LSD that any overarching description is futile. Each performer has a large timbral pallet, but more conventional modes of expression are also plentiful. Sample Morris’ beautifully pantonal musings on “Separate Blue X” or Plsek’s pointilistic punctuations on “Index Card no. 1.” There is dialogue a-plenty, but the larger picture is of a trio, the three musicians often seeming to breathe as one as they explore these rich and multivalent compositional landscapes.

It is a shame that Davidson didn’t get the recognition he deserved during his life. Hopefully, this and several releases now in preparation will foster new appreciation for his work. Davidson could not have better advocates than Morris, Voigt and Plsek. I’m told that there is a large body of Davidson’s music waiting to be performed, and I hope that this trio will reconvene to wax more of it.

By Marc Medwin

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