SPINNER.com: Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2009 = #1!
"Here with his quartet of saxophonist Jim Hobbs, bassist Timo Shanko and drummer Luther Gray, Morris is at his most eloquent. He writes for these guys as gracefully as he does for himself, conjuring heartfelt melodies. The group responds with revelatory musical voyages and strong interplay." –Tad Hendrickson
Hour Magazine (Ottawa, Canada alt. weekly) Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2009 = #1!
“..peerless guitarist Joe Morris at his most accessible. .. exuberantly swinging .. Today on Earth has it all: smart compositional structures that launch tasty, unpredictable improvisations” –SIGNAL TO NOISE (Winter 2010), Jay Collins
“Joe Morris continues to expand his prodigious output with varied work, refining and redefining his identity as an inventive and deeply principled improviser. The depth and profundity of the results from these disparate endeavors bear the mark of an innovative artist with decades of experience. .. Longtime Morris collaborators Jim Hobbs (saxophone), Timo Shanko (bass) and Luther Gray (drums) all shine throughout this record. Hobbs’ solo on “Animal” is nothing short of astounding in its abstract lyricism, replete with throaty vocalizations, dramatic use of negative space and a gradually expanding phrase structure. Shanko and Gray form an inspiring rhythm section, providing driving energy on the title cut and on “Imaginary Solutions”, deep pocket on “Animal” and “Backbone”, and subtle atmospheric textures on “Observer” and “Ashes”. Morris’ compositions linger in the ear, as the ensemble dynamics in the improvisations always develop and enrich the evocative themes.” –ALL ABOUT JAZZ-NEW YORK (January 2010), Wilbur MacKenzie
"Today On Earth is a stellar highlight in an exceptional, eclectic discography."
.....–Troy Collins, All About Jazz
"As with the previous release Wildlife there is a distinct ensemble voice, a lithe, supple sound comes through .. Morris' rising stature as a composer-leader and soloist is indisputable."
.....–Kevin Le Gendre, Jazzwise (UK)
“To my ears, it's one of his best. Straddling, or better yet, blurring the lines between group improvisation, freedom, and melody while dissolving the barriers of genre, the ensemble digs into this music. There are moments when this band flat-out swings (Gray, again, brings the joy of propulsion to the forefront); yet, the quieter moments are among the most melodic of Morris's long career. In a year that has already produced many strong CDs, this Joe Morris Quartet release should make a lot of 'Best of..' lists and deservedly so.”
.....–Richard Kamins, Hartford Courant
"Morris is a master of mixing total improvisational freedom with a realization that swing can be just as liberating as skronk, that a clean tone can say as much as, if not more than, a coruscating flood-tide of noise. Indeed, this album is so pretty that its adventurousness may slip right by on the first few listens. In other words, it's worth spending time with and getting to know."
.....–Phil Freeman, All Music Guide
"No one plays the guitar like Joe Morris, with sharply articulated, single-note lines delivered in a dry tone. Besides the clarity of the playing itself, what stands out is the cogency of Morris's melodies and the tight unison lines of Morris and Hobbs that puts one in mind of the playing of Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. Easily one of my favourite albums of this fast-waning year."
.....–Mike Chamberlain, Hour (Canada)
"Joe Morris holds a unique position in creative music, meriting the top drawer on both guitar and bass, wielding the former in David S. Ware's resurgent company on Shakti (AUM Fidelity, 2009), and the latter on Wildlife (AUM Fidelity, 2009). For his third outing on the same imprint in 2009 Morris returns to guitar for what might just be his best showing yet, in a move which represents sustained artistic return on the label's investment. Completing the quartet, on what is their sophomore release, are long-time associates Jim Hobbs on alto saxophone, best known for helming the Fully Celebrated Orchestra (who made their own Aum Fidelity debut with Blood of the Holy Ones earlier in the year), together with the Celebrated's bassist Timo Shanko and Luther Gray behind the traps. Though Morris calls what he plays Free Music, alluding to the freedom he desires to express his feelings and ideas, his concise compositions are the guiding force in this 67-minute set, allowing ample room for individual expression within relatively straight ahead confines.
Morris' ringing single note lines evoke join the dot drawings, where each bright sonic point is linked inextricably to the next until they reveal unsuspected but coherent wholes. On alto, Hobbs demonstrates his astounding timbral control with vocalized, wavering cries and smears, which in their skilful nuance suggest an extreme version of the Ornette Coleman of the early Atlantic sides. Indeed, on the oriental-tinged "Observer," Shanko's flamenco-informed strums and throbbing bent notes evoke Coleman's face of the bass, Charlie Haden, to reinforce the similarities. Shanko and Gray make for a tight pairing, unobtrusively buoying up the front line while making the most of what space comes their way.
Though each of the seven pieces starts with a guitar and alto unison head, Morris' simple cellular motifs act as fertile jumping off points and building blocks for individual expression, ultimately giving each cut a satisfyingly distinct flavor. From the lively free-bop of the opening "Backbone," via the staccato pointillism of "Embarrassment of Riches," through to the flag-waving "Imaginary Solutions," the group thoroughly and inventively inhabit these compositions. On "Ashes," Shanko's arco atmospherics, limned by telling percussion, summon spacey horn and guitar solos with slow burning intensity. But it is "Animal," with its cantering bittersweet melody and insistent hook, which draws the strongest statements from both Morris and Hobbs, and stands as the highest summit among a range of peaks."
.....–John Sharpe, All About Jazz
"And the band is absolutely stunning, in its pretenseless, unassuming playing, yet delivering a rare level of combined accuracy of tone and interaction, giving space, dialoguing well, giving the right emphasis at the right time, and adding loads of emotional depth: truly great. .. African music, Middle-Eastern flavors, folk, a little blues, and lots of freedom and joy. Enjoy this beautiful existence, today on earth!"
.....–Stef, Free Jazz blog
"I've already written about this CD once before and I like the CD even more than I did then. .. it's easy to get lost in the sonic world the quartet creates."
......–Richard Kamins, Hartford Courant