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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Joe Morris & Agustí Fernández - Ambrosia (Riti Records, 2011) ****

By Paul Acquaro

This guitar and piano duo album from Joe Morris and Agustí Fernández is an outing by like minded improvisors, happily extending the definition of melody and the physical limitations of their respective instruments. Between rich acoustic tones they scratch and pluck in unintended places, creating rhythm and melody in adventurous ways.

The series of improvisations begin with "Ambrosia 1", which finds Fernández delivering fleeting phrases on the keys while Morris, reacting, provides counter argument via his fretboard. The two build in intensity, playing melodies and rhythms that interact but are each quite complete on their own. At times one may drop out, leaving the lone voice to pursue its own path, but soon they reunite to further explore the boundaries of the song.

As "Ambrosia 2" demonstrates, the first song was a showcase of possibilities, not a template. This time around, Fernández is fully exploiting the inside of the piano, developing a hypnotic percussive motif while Morris plucks, scratches, and mutes his lightening quick runs to create an alternately percussive accompaniment. "Ambrosia 3" exploits the full range of the keyboard, Fernández laying out deep rhythmic figures while Morris parries with precise flights across the freeboard.

"Ambrosia 4" is essentially the sound one may hear in their soul as they descend towards hell. Working on the guts of the piano Fernández creates dark passages that sloughs the skin and lets Morris pick the bones. There are moments when one may feel they just may make it out alive, a softening, a lighter spot perhaps, but soon the terror begins again ... and this on acoustic instruments! It's quite a fantastic ride. The last two improvs do not disappoint either, both employing their own interesting devices.

Mixing conventional and extended techniques, melodies and harmonies, this duo creates a shifting landscape of sound. From swirling clouds that are dark and grainy, to ones that are fragmentary and fleeting, these improvisors uses all of their respective instruments to elicit texture and song.

© Paul Acquaro