Joe Morris Trio | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Joe Morris Trio

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Boston's Joe Morris is one of a handful of contemporary jazz guitar practitioners who have carved out a wholly distinctive style, and over the course of a half dozen albums he's honed his deliciously lean attack to razor-edged sharpness. Through his clean, pure tone you can still hear a trace of James "Blood" Ulmer's influence--particularly in the chunky, knotty phrasing--but with each new outing Morris seems more and more his own musician. On his excellent new Symbolic Gestures (Soul Note), for example, with bassist Nate McBride and drummer Curt Newton, he glides through a succession of musical landscapes with impressive intuition. Eschewing the comped chords that typically characterize jazz guitar, Morris plays probing, lengthy, exclusively single-string lines that reveal a fascination more with horn players than guitarists; also palpable is the influence of the violin's tonal freedom and the raggedly plucked sound of primitive African string instruments. Morris is an extremely free player, both tonally and rhythmically, but he and his telepathically connected groups rarely altogether abandon a swing sensibility. His music is guided by an inextricable logic that allows adventurousness; the trio always knows where it is in the music, even when the map is tossed aside. Add to this risky approach a surprising if sideways bluesiness that manifests itself with gorgeous tenderness, and you're in for something unique and wonderful. Sunday, 9:30 PM, HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee; 235-2334.

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