Saturday, February 12, 2005
Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris: Conduction #11.
Time for another installment of Black History Month as observed at HurdAudio. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Conduction and this year Butch Morris is observing Black History Month by presenting conductions all around New York City with a different ensemble every night. Which is just another thing I can add to my long list of why NYC is still the cultural center of the universe.
Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris has dedicated much of his composing career to implementing an effective approach to conducted improvisation. In doing so he has advanced the art of large scale group improvisation. Over the years he's worked with large collections of the finest improvisers all over the world and the small fraction that's available on CD is tantalizing. This is big band jazz with the stamp of this talented composer/conductor's unique vision and sensibility.
Conduction #11 is disc number one of the ten disc box set Testament and is perhaps my personal favorite of the ten in terms of sonic texture. It was recorded at the Where Music Goes Festival in San Francisco in 1988 and features a number of "left coast" improvisers. These include the members of the Rova Saxophone Quartet, guitarist Bill Horvitz and percussionist William Winant. This is a group with great chemistry and Morris blends and balances the sound into an expressive and cohesive whole.
Sonically this conduction has a molten consistency that heats up over time as faster lines are added into the texture. The acoustic instruments are offset by the electronics of J.A. Deane that percolate and ebb and at times draw the percussion and electric guitar into the fray. Harmonically this work is gorgeous. The opening chords for both parts one and two (built up with sustained tones on the sax and strings) are ear catching and establish a rich harmonic environment for this work to thrive.
The "conducted improvisation" is a rich concept and it's no surprise to find it going strong a full two decades later. Butch Morris is a true virtuoso of painting a cohesive improvisation through the medium of large ensembles.