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Joe Morris/Damon Smith, Waves of Extension ****

'Waves of Extension' speaks the same language as the late John Russell and keeps his conversation with humanity going. Drawn from duo album Gusts Against Particles to be released by the new Open Systems label on May Day, an auspicious choice of …

Published: 5 Apr 2021. Updated: 17 days.

'Waves of Extension' speaks the same language as the late John Russell and keeps his conversation with humanity going. Drawn from duo album Gusts Against Particles to be released by the new Open Systems label on May Day, an auspicious choice of date, guitarist Joe Morris is superb as too is double bassist Damon Smith. Hearing Morris back in 2009 when he was touring with saxophonist Tony Bevan, The Necks drummer Tony Buck and bassist Dominic Lash that night at the Vortex in east London Morris was stimulating as the American certainly proved to be the magnet for the other three in the second set, often finding a cluster of notes that brought a momentous clarity to the group’s collective sound. His sticking power here on this new record is also clear. The tremendously alert pair recorded this album in June 2019. The springy reverberant quality produced from the strings and the salty harmonic interplay coupled with a circling motion that keeps the focus on an equality of contribution as the pair collectively improvise is agile and very invigorating. Buy

Tags: Track reviews

Robert Mitchell, The Thread ****

Robert Mitchell is one of the UK's greatest living jazz pianists and in such a list would be placed somewhere near the top. When the Ilfordian played with the great Matana Roberts, Seb Rochford and Tom Mason in the Vortex back in 2010 that was an …

Published: 4 Apr 2021. Updated: 9 days.

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Robert Mitchell is one of the UK's greatest living jazz pianists and in such a list would be placed somewhere near the top. When the Ilfordian played with the great Matana Roberts, Seb Rochford and Tom Mason in the Vortex back in 2010 that was an occasion when Roberts seemed to challenge him to through compose some sort of apposite harmonic episode in response to her jagged lines which he did with some aplomb. Rochford not to be outdone, as he usually knows exactly how to, played the drums as if he himself was playing the piano (the erstwhile Son of Kemet fundamentally knowing that the piano is itself a percussion instrument, think the Wilmer-esque notion of the piano as ''eighty-eight tuned drums.'')

Mitchell knows that too. But that was only one time and it's always stimulating to hear him whether in a Cecil Taylor-like mood or not. Here it's not like that style at all. Intimate away from a venue The Thread is instead a series of vignettes styled more in his own head space as a composer beyond any other style than his own. Some of the pieces are really brief but as usual with Mitchell they say a lot and you need to take it all in. However 'Flicker' is more than a lick, it finds an inner engine; 'Halo' spreads out more; 'To Keep Your Soul Intact' seems to return to the core atmosphere of the album, its introspective lost-in-thought dreaming a daytime vision. 'Once the Ink Dries' keeps the pervasive atmosphere intact.

Returning to The Thread over the last few days since release again and again is rewarding and I'll be returning more in the weeks and months ahead. Mitchell nonetheless remains an oblique improviser. You won't necessarily solve the puzzle of his sound because that is not the challenge. However, you have to listen hard to what he provides. And it's worth doing so.

As a zeitgeist album at the moment (this terrible ongoing situation for the mind, body and soul when live music continues to be absent making life harder than ever) there is no finer cure and tonic. Mitchell never shirks away from reality, eschewing random escapism within the prism of his abstractionism. SG. Buy via this link
Robert Mitchell photo: Carl Hyde