Sacred Ground

No Photograph Available

[Clean Feed Records, www.cleanfeed-records.com]

Here are two albums that happen to feature the talents of guitarist-turned-bassist Joe Morris.
All players on Whit Dickey's new album have also played with William Parker at one point or another. Observations aside, drummer composers are rare nowadays. Gerry Hemingway, Tony Oxley, Fritz Hauser, Susie Ibarra and Lucas Niggli stand out as a few of the ones that are certainly worth giving a listen to. Dickey is no exception. Though he has more or less stayed out of the sheer spotlight for the last few years, over the last few years he has made something of a comeback of sorts. His already seasoned quartet [same one featured on the last three Clean Feed records] is packed with a heap of seasoned talent - alto saxophonist Rob Brown, bassist Joe Morris and trumpet player Roy Campbell. Even if all pieces are Dickey's own, each player in his quartet gets plenty of room to stretch out. Especially pleasing are energetic exchanges between Campbell's high-flying trumpet [though I love it even more when he mutes it for a bit] and the over-riding melodicism of Brown's alto. Morris gets a ton of manoeuvring room as he gets into a duo with the leader on "Vital Transmission" and an absolutely warm plucking solo on "Soldier of Uncertainty". Dickey is a monster at the drum set. Attacking from all sides at ones, he likes to strike the hi-hats as much as he does with his pyrotechnic motions on the rest of the set. Very solid playing throughout from all four players. Recalling classic jazz sounds of Coltrane and Sanders, Dickey nonetheless ensures there are new ideas thrown into the musical bucket as well. Lyrical and highly melodic, this quartet continues to go from strength to strength.
Another player that likes to take his time with releases is trumpeter Dennis González. Time is a good thing. Whenever he releases a record, it's always a cause for a mini celebration. It's no different this time around. Before travelling to Boston, he sent messages through his chat list asking for contacts of local musicians he has not yet played with. Fairly quickly a quintet has formed, which features Nate McBride and Joe Morris on bass, Charlie Kohlhase on saxophones and a young 19 year-old drummer by the name of Croix Galipault. As always, the results are stunning. Duelling bassists square off with each other more than a few times. It's a good thing each is in a different channel so identification of who's playing arco and who's thumping on the strings is easy to distinguish. Charlie Kohlhase's blowing is intense, especially as he blows the hell out of his tenor. Percussive magic worked up by Croix Galipault is admirable, though nothing out of the ordinary. One good thing I can say is he can definitely work well with space and he's not afraid to lay off while the others are taking their turn at the spotlight. The leader's trumpet playing retains an edge, while not being overtly abrasive. I know this may be an oxymoron, but in this case, González can do both very well. Whatever the occasion calls for, he's easily adaptable. Three big cheers for the return of one of jazz's masters of the trumpet!

- Tom Sekowski

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