Joe Morris / Petr Cancura / Luther Gray - "Nettle" (Wildlife)
Joe Morris’s name may come first on the marquee, but this is no star turn. This music is collectively improvised, the result of a spontaneous process made with a deep awareness of decades of free jazz practice, but it isn’t interested in sounding like “improvised music” or “free jazz.” Rather, the players are free to be themselves, to draw at will from a continuum of ideas about how to interact, and to perhaps show a side that they don’t elsewhere.
The latter point is especially true of Petr Cancura, who by dint of his extroverted presence and his confederates’ willingness to keep time most of the time comes off like the session’s front man. He plays with less concern for burnished prettiness and more melodic intricacy than on the videos he’s posted of sessions under his own name. On “Thicket,” for example, he subjects a melody to fluttering, beating and striated tonal variations while Morris’s repetitive bass figures reference Malian sonorities, which he in turn elaborates during his own solo.
Despite the hint of music from another culture, the fact that sequential solos present themselves underscores this group’s preference to work within the jazz continuum; the swing with which Morris and drummer Luther Gray play confirms it. Morris came to the bass in his 40s, after decades of playing the guitar; while you can’t fault his technique, he’s used the act of starting over to approach the instrument with a strong concept regarding its place in music. He’s not here to make it do something it’s never done before, but to make it do what it can do really well. Gray, who has been working with Morris throughout this decade, makes a strong foil. When Morris bears down, he fans out, playing light and elaborate figures around the bass’s deep furrows; then he and Morris will synch up, locking into a sure and complex groove that is deeply satisfying.