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«Gusts Against Particles»

American masters of free improvisation – guitarist Joe Morris and double bass player Damon Smith, collaborate as a duo for the first time on the debut album of the newly-founded, artist-run label Open Systems Records. Morris and Smith played together before in the homage to Albert Ayler «Healing Force – The Songs Of Albert Ayler» (Cuneiform, 2007), arranged by guitarist Henry Kaiser. Their duo album «Gusts Against Particles» was recorded in June 2019 and is a limited edition vinyl of 200 copies (with download option). Kaiser contributed the liner notes and drummer Weasel Walter mixed and mastered it. Kaiser and Walter are frequent collaborators of Smith and both played on «Healing Force».

Morris and Smith played a few performances together alongside the studio recording of «Gusts Against Particles» prior to Smith’s relocation from Boston to St. Louis. Smith says that he thinks of Morris – who is also a double bass player and has worked with a few of the most innovative double bass players like William Parker and Barre Phillips as well as other great free improvisers like Anthony Braxton, Evan Parker, Nate Wooley, and guitarist Mary Halvorson, as a horn player more than a guitarist. This observation allowed Smith to play faster and more effortlessly than on his own.

«Gusts Against Particles», as its title promises, is a series of intense, dense and passionate free-improvised conversations. Both Morris and Smith expand their instruments’ sonic palette with extended techniques. Morris plays with muting objects, pedals, and picking motions that create a hive of sounds from scrabbled density to ghostly drabs hanging between nodes of a western scale. Smith plays with interweaving additional bows, brushes, woody palm-swabs and plastic chain. These imaginative sonic palettes enable Morris and Smith to sound like a bigger outfit than just a guitarist and double bass players. Both challenge each other constantly, never settle on an obvious course or surrender to familiar forms, but always attentive to every nuance or a shift in the mood or pulse, and often suggest engaging, often poetic and sometimes even lyrical conversations that often nod to free jazz.

Kaiser concludes that Morris and Smith «have raised the stakes for each other so that the music often goes to multiplex places where no music has gone before for either of the players. For me, that’s the goal that they reach: BEYOND». Kaiser is certain that this is «music and playing that is accessible to the dilettante and novice listener alike». I am sure that «Gusts Against Particles», would open the ears of any dilettante listener for a great listening experience. The novice listeners need no recommendation to grab this album.

Eyal Hareuveni  

Joe Morris (g), Damon Smith (b)

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