Reviews that mention Butch Morris

March 22, 2016

Anthony Coleman

New World Records 80767-2

By Ken Waxman

A CD that more appropriately should have been labeled Him, You collects six instances of Anthony Coleman work which occupy the mid-ground between written and improvised music, encompassing a jazz sensibility plus faint echoes of eastern European sounds.

Like indigenous responses to bereavement, Coleman’s most affecting works here deal with death on the personal or mass level without overlapping in tone. “Station RER (B) Drancy” for instance, performed with taut understatement by a 10-piece, Coleman-conducted orchestra, is a poignant elegy for French Jews sent to the death camps during the Holocaust from the Paris train station of that name. Filled with prescient locomotion-like motifs, it reaches a crescendo as death march-like percussion smacks start to resemble gun shots. In contrast, “Oogenera”, a three-part solo piano threnody for conduction pioneer Lawrence “Butch” Morris, shuffles along like mourners in a funeral procession; becomes tougher and darker in the middle, but speeds up to passionate hopefulness by its climax. MORE

December 16, 2015

Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris

Possible Universe
NBR SA Jazz 014

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin

Ichigo Ichie

Libra Records 212 037

Circum Grand Orchestra


Circum-Disc CD 1401

Orcheatra Senza Confini/Orkester Brez Meja

Orcheatra Senza Confini/Orkester Brez Meja


Bertrand Denzler/Onceim


Confront ccs 37

Something In The Air: Big Bands Redux

By Ken Waxman

Although most people associate big bands with the Swing Era dances and later, jazzier, manifestations such as Nimmons’n’Nine and The Boss Brass, despite the dearth of venues and difficulties of keeping even a combo working steadily, musicians persist in utilizing large ensembles. Like muralists who prefer the magnitude of a large canvas, composers, arrangers and players appreciate the colours and breath available using numerous, well-balanced instruments. MORE

January 6, 2013

Joe Morris Quartet

Graffiti in Two Parts
Rogueart ROG-0039

By Ken Waxman

Paradoxically, the overriding fascination of this 1985 Cambridge, Mass. session is with its least-known player. Unlike Joe Morris, Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris and Malcolm Goldstein, who have well-charted careers in improvised music, this is only the second record featuring Lowell Davidson (1941-1990). More crucially, Davidson plays percussion and aluminum acoustic bass here, unlike his eponymous 1965 debut as a pianist on ESP-Disk with drummer Milford Graves and bassist Gary Peacock. MORE

January 5, 2012

Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris

Nu Bop Records CD 09


Positions and Descriptions

Clean Feed CF 230 CD

By Ken Waxman

For the past 20-odd years as “Butch” Morris has demonstrated conduction: structuring free improvisation using a specific series of hand gestures, many improvising ensembles have been created in his its wake. Whether groups use or not signals developed by Morris to rearrange and sculpt notated and non-notated music, conduction is part of their inventory. As these releases demonstrate however, it depends on individual musicians’ skills for a performance to be fully satisfying. MORE

July 2, 2008

Lawrence R “Butch” Morris

Rai Trade RTPJ 0009

Developed by American Lawrence R “Butch” Morris more than two decades ago, the concept of guided improvisation, or conduction, has become almost universally adopted and even fashionable – at least in improvisational circles. However this impressive two-CD set demonstrates that this vocabulary of ideographic signs and gestures is most impressively utilized by the person who conceived of it.

Working in that zone between notation and improvisation, Morris’ subtle direction of harmony, melody, rhythm, articulation, phrasing and form creates a sonic area that immediately defines itself as conduction. More profoundly, by taking into account the pitch, duration, intensity and timbre of individuals’ instruments, each performance is unique. MORE

February 13, 2008

Butch Morris & Ensemble Laboratorio Novamusica

Conduction 142/1-143/2
Galatina Records CD 0701

True to Butch Morris’ declaration that he wants to work with more than jazz-oriented improvisers, this notable two-CD set finds the New York-based conduction pioneer performing two new ideographic-oriented pieces with the Italian Ensemble Laboratorio Novamusica (ELN).

Considering that the eight-piece Venice-based ensemble was organized more than 15 years ago with the express purpose of researching, studying and performing New music, the fit with Morris is near perfect. Still, the second of these CDs, recorded at Berlin’s Total Music Meeting (TMM) is superior to the first disc taken from a Venice concert three days earlier. On both discs, the ELN – trumpeter Ilich Fenzi, trombonist Umberto de Nigris, Cecilia Vendrasco playing different flutes, violist Piergabriele Mancuso, bassist Andrea Carlon, drummer Peter Gallo, Carlo Carratelli on upright piano and harpsichord plus director Giovanni Mancuso on piano – operates at an enviably high level following Morris’ complex system of signs and gestures. However all concerned seem particularly energized at the TMM. Perhaps it’s because of the location, or maybe it’s because a choir of bass clarinetists – Armand Angster, Peter van Bergen, Wolfgang Fuchs and Hans Koch – joins the band for the final two numbers. MORE

September 7, 2005

Billy Bang

Vietnam: Reflections
Justin Time Just 212-2

A refinement rather than a squeal to violinist Billy Bang’s highly praised Vietnam: The Aftermath, this CD extends his cathartic musings on his Southeast Asian war experiences by adding traditional sounds from two Vietnamese performers to those created by his freebop ensemble. Probably the foremost clue to his conception is that tunes entitled “Reconciliation1” and “Reconciliation 2” take up one-third of the disc.

On the former and elsewhere, the vocals of Co Boi Nguyen and the stroked dan tranh – or plucked zither – textures from Nhan Thanh Ngo provide distinctive patterns which the other musicians use to their advantage. While there is an Oriental cast to some of the themes in the Bang-crafted originals, this isn’t some so-called world music match-up. Bang and company – some members of whom like trumpeter Ted Daniel, drummer Michael Carvin, percussionist Ron Brown and conductor Butch Morris are also Nam veterans – are jazzmen first. MORE

March 7, 2005


Sweet Space/Untitled Gift
8th Harmonic Breakdown HB 8005/6

Fusion of two Billy Bang LPs originally issued on the Anima label plus four previously unreleased tracks, this two-CD set proves once again that a lot of excellent, advanced music was being made out of the media spotlight in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

While the focus then may have been on the discredited jazz-rock movement and emerging Young Lions, Free Jazz/Loft Movement veterans like Bang and crew were obstinately cutting out-of-the-ordinary sessions that, like Julius Hemphill and David Murray’s records of the time, contained basic swing roots fused with atonal solos. MORE

November 18, 2002


North America
Cuneiform Rune 167

Retrospectively Curlew got a raw deal.

When these tunes were briefly released -- only in Germany -- in the mid-1980s, the band’s mixture of jazz improvisations, R&B licks and compact pop hooks was ignored in favor of music performed by groups more closely allied to any one of those idioms.

Listening to this vastly uneven collection, however, shows that the band made up of dedicated New York downtowners, was groping towards the sort of non-idiomatic fusion many younger, more sophisticated groups revel in today, whether they be from the so-called jazz or so-called pop/rock side of the equation. MORE

June 15, 2002


Conduction 117
Jumps Arts JA002

One of the most discussed, but ultimately unsuccessful, notions of the 1950s and 1960s was the attempted fusion of improvised and orchestral music into the so-called Third Stream. Besides the non-cooperation of most so-called classical types, the main reason this didn’t work was that Third Stream’s most committed composers, like John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, appeared to be trying to put a jazz face on essentially pre-modern serious music. What ended up was a hybrid somewhat like a jet equipped with tricycle wheels. MORE