Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

Joe Morris / Ken Vandermark / Luther Gray – Rebus (CF 083)

Recorded two days after having played at Tonic in 2006, “Rebus” consists of six improvisations where the relationships between the instrumental forces at play is exquisitely balanced, despite the well perceptible urge alimenting every single gesture of the involved artists. Joe Morris, whom in recent times we had also appreciated as a gifted, uniquely styled bassist, suggests loads of new directions to launch a guitar towards, his unmistakable tone – all high frequencies cut off in a rotund, meaty muscle of a voice – finely complementing Vandermark’s extracurricular tenor sax activities and, incredibly, often at the basis of a rhythmic skeleton that uses the axe as a percussive element (check the third part to have an idea of what I mean). Vandermark himself appears to be unable of limiting to sheer self-expression, coordinating furiously ripping combinations of linear nervousness and ecstatic instigations in a whole that calls Morris to a continuous game of exchanges and immediate reactions: one moment almost anarchic, an instant later seemingly thought out in advance. It takes years to function like that in a trio, and no one more than drummer Luther Gray – a longtime Morris partner – incarnates the correct attitude and technical ability that are necessary to sustain and propel soloists of this caliber, his expertise so distant from over-refinement yet still adorned with those minute particulars and attentive acquisitions that make a style comprehensible and personal. There is much to learn from “Rebus”, our engagement with the music’s significance growing with each listen, an incessant progress that – although not revolutionary in the truest sense – defines this release as an important contribution to better explain the advancement of modern jazz.

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