Vermont Review: Two from AUM Fidelity - Joe Morris & Mat Maneri’s Soul Search and William Parker & The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra ‘s Mayor of Punkville
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Two from AUM Fidelity: Joe Morris & Mat Maneri’s Soul Search and William Parker & The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra ‘s Mayor of Punkville
 By Brian L. Knight

Joe Morris & Mat Maneri – Soul Search

Soul Search is the pairing of the unique style of Joe Morris’ electric guitar and Maneri’s electric violin. The two have established themselves for their innovative approaches to their respective instruments, and although the two have played together countless times, Soul Search catches the two in a rare duo format.

Joe Morris was born in New Haven, Connecticut and it was the sounds of the Beatles that led him to his first guitar. Like so many youths at the time, everyone wanted to be a rock and roll star. Once he discovered jazz, Morris became enraptured by the playing of John McLaughlin and James Blood Ulmer but has since forged his own unique style. In a June 1999 interview with Allen Huotari of All About Jazz, Morris described his approach, "I am not an interpretive musician. I draw influence from primary sources like Nature, culture, feelings, reflection, etc. I stopped listening and copying other musicians in 1974 when I realized that they were as strong as they were because they were using their own voices. I had to learn to use mine. My guitar playing is my way of displaying my music. It isn't different from my music but my music is about ideas, not just about the guitar."

Morris’s idiosyncratic playing has covered jazz, chamber music, and collective improvisation in which he uses a crisp undistorted tone to create chaotic yet very regimented and controlled sounds. While his fellow avant-garde guitarists opt for distortion to help push their music in new direction, Morris maintains a traditional tone that is supported by a non-traditional vision. He draws on the music of traditional swing, African folk, 1960s New Thing Jazz and throws it into his own melting pot and arises as one of the most unique jazz sounds today.

Mat Maneri is the son of the famous composer/saxophonist/clarinetist Joseph Maneri who introduced Mat to the wonderful world of jazz when most kids were still playing with their toy X Wing Fighters. Mat immediately fell into the same creative snare as his father and embarked on a career of true creativity. Over the years, Maneri has become adept with the five-string viola, the electric six-string violin and the baritone violin. Morris and Maneri played together on many of Morris’ albums and they are no strangers to each other’s playing styles. The two also recorded with Mat’s father for the percussion less ECM album Three Men Walking.

On Soul Search, Maneri and Morris manage to have disorder and harmony existing together in one album. The two are combative as the duel away, yet there is an inherent line of communication that allows for their belligerent sounds to come together in distinctive concord. In the liner notes to the album, Morris describes the guiding principles of Morris and Maneri’s music making: "The sharpest listeners are on the same quest as we are. They will understand the title "Soul Search" because they will listen to this music with their hearts as well as their minds. They are deep enough to know that a complex organization of sound played with unique technique can only be made by a curious person dealing with life as an adventure unto uncharted territory, in the hopes of deciphering some meaning out of mystery"

 

William Parker & The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra – Mayor of Punkville

Bassist William Parker is one of the busier people in today’s jazz scene. The New York City native, who studied under Coltrane alumni Steve Davis and Jimmy Garrison and is veteran of Cecil Taylor’s bands from the 1980s and 1990s, is no stranger to the world of improvised music. Since his debut recording along side Art Ensemble of Chicago member, Joseph Jarman, Parker has played with Derek Bailey, Billy Bang, Peter Brotzmann, William Hooker, Jimmy Lyons, Roscoe Mitchell, Jemeel Moondoc, David S. Ware, Matthew Shipp and John Zorn. In addition, Parker was a key player in the creation of the Improvisers Collective.

Parker is definitely not one to be limited by the sizes of bands that he plays in. He recently finished a duet with Matthew Shipp and his latest endeavor is the seventeen-piece band The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. The ensemble, which first came together in 1994, is made up of seven stations that includes 1) trombones 2) trumpets 3) baritone sax/tuba 4) soprano sax 5) alto sax and 7) bass. With these seven stations, the seventeen musicians move from melodic swing numbers to cacophonous romps to little blues numbers. The music of the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra can be found on the 2 CD set, Mayor of Punkville, which was recorded live at Club Tonic in 1999.

Parker prefers not to call it jazz but rather "universal music". It is not tied to any specific idiom and the musicians aim to create a sound that stands alone. In an interview with Fred Jung of Jazzweekly.com, Parker described his thoughts on the values of music: "Music was a vehicle that would help people inspire people, almost like prayer, the way people go to church and pray and try to get close to God. Music was a way that people could listen to music and also achieve that same purpose and inspiration. That really struck me and made it very clear that I could really get into this. I really felt that that was an important direction for me and for other human beings."

 

Right from the beginning, Mayor of Punkville evokes feeling of the Sun Ra Arkestra, who was another musician who yearned to transcend pre-described musical styles. The tune "James Baldwin to the Rescue" was dedicated to the famous advocate and is sung by Aleta Hayes who voicing mirrors the beautiful singing of Arkestra member, June Tyson. The basic tenet of the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra is the concept of self-conduction. Parker wanted to create a big band setting where the individual players could add whatever they wanted to the sound as the music progressed. Parker is the band's de-facto leader, but each of the seventeen members are given ample opportunity to introduce their own creativity and lead the band. This is where William Parker differs from Sun Ra. Whereas Sun Ra maintained a very regimented game plan towards performances, Parker allows for change and the introduction of new ideas.

One of the first disc’s highlights is "Oglala Eclipse" which Parker dedicated to a collection of musicians and Native Americans whose short list included Lee Morgan, Sam Rivers, Crazy Horse and Black Elk. For "Oglala Eclipse", the orchestra masterfully combines the collective orchestration that embodied the big bands of Duke Ellington, the collective improvisation that typified the sound of Sun Ra and the individual soloing that was practiced by everyone from Charlie Parker to Albert Ayler. The title track is named after a short story by Parker about a how a band of cosmic musicians rid a town of corruption through music. Being a native of New York City, perhaps Parker sees the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra as a vehicle to bring peace to the Big Apple. The albums final tune, "Anthem", was written for the recently departed Lester Bowie whose playing with the Art Ensemble of Chicago influenced generations of creative musicians such as William Parker.

Parker grew up in a household with the bands of Basie, Ellington and Webster playing constantly. When he started creating his own music, he followed the route started by John Coltrane but never forgetting the roots of his own musical discovery. The Mayor of Punkville is the meeting of his musical journeys. The music seeks out uncharted territories without neglecting the first path makers.

Find out more about these musicians at www.aumfidelity.com.