Artist: Greg Morgan
Date of Release: 01/04/2010
Catalogue no: SLAM CD 281
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‘A world somewhere between Atlantis and Greenwich Village’1
This music draws on an ancient tradition: it owes as much to Aeschylus as it does to late-John Coltrane and Albert Ayler. The expressionism of the music - fragmented rhythms, atonality, deeply-felt melodic beauty - is there to intensify the unity of the drama. The pieces are like disconnected scenes: dialogue, recitative, chorus, aria. And the story is perhaps Mazeppa.
‘This is music played by people who want to be somewhere else and are doing something about it.’2
The voices in this unknown landscape are:
Greg Morgan - saxophones, composer
Background in classical and jazz. First release Spirit of Light (Slam ’96) attracted good reviews across Europe. Most recent release Nisir (Pella ’04) followed by touring in duo with Chas Ambler.
Dan Haywood - guitar
Formerly of alt-rockers The Puma-Sutras and now producing thirty-song album Dan Haywood’s New Hawks.
Pete French - organ
Artist, musician and gardener. Ex James Hunter; in duo Mood Index with novelist-singer Ian Marchant.
Chas Ambler - percussion, drums
Actor, drummer, singer-songwriter. Played with The Trees, Jamie Muir & Don Weller, 7:84, John B Spencer.
Jeff Barnes - drums
Composer of electronic music, string quartets; multi-instrumentalist, and inventor of The Wheel.
1 Other Music, Sheffield
2 Robert Sandall, Radio 3
04/10/2010 Stuart Kremsky
Saxophonist Greg Morgan’s austere approach to improvisation yields some startling yet approachable music on Domino. His m.o. is similar on half a dozen tracks, as his quavery horn spins out shards of melody over fractured accompaniments. Lest that sound at all formulaic, be assured that the backgrounds change radically from piece to piece, so radically in fact that one of the mysteries here is what happened to Dan Haywood’s inventive slash and strum guitar after the opening track. I wanted more but it never came along. Similarly, Pete French’s subdued organ is only heard from time to time. He’s a big part of the dreamy title track, where Morgan’s long-held notes on tenor are the main focus. Overdubbed electric piano by Morgan adds to the ghostly feel. The tenor lines grow more emphatic as the piece progresses, accumulating an emotional density that sneaks up on you. The often tribal drumming of Chas Ambler and/or Jeff Barnes enlivens most of the pieces. Morgan and Ambler break a sweat in the middle section of “Morning Land.” Morgan plays piano in the opening and closing sections of the piece, where, not surprisingly, his phrasing sounds quite like his horn work. Morgan goes it alone on tenor
for the brief “Among the Wheels,” stirringly elaborating a folk-song derived melody and setting up the closing “North Star” by having his last note on tenor morph into French’s almost subliminal organ. Although it’s a little tough to warm up to at times, Morgan’s clear vision and the total commitment of his sound certainly merit some serious listening. Stuart Kremsky Cadence October 2010
01/06/2010 Brian Morton
The Nile Runners (2, 4); Frogs For
Snakes (3, 4); Domino (1);
Morning Land (2); Among the
Wheels; North Star (1) (44.02)
Greg Morgan (ss, ts, elp on (1));
Pete French (org); Dan Haywood
(g); Chas Ambler (d on (2), perc
on (3)); Jeff Barnes (d on (4)).
West Orange, 2008/2009.
I’ve followed Greg Morgan’s
progress with great interest and
reliable enjoyment since nominating
‘Spirit Of Light’, his first
appearance on Slam, as one of my
Radio 3 Impressions records of
the year. The only problem is, I
can’t remember any longer what
year it was. Maybe 1996 or so.
Morgan has continued to evolve
impressively. He’s another of the
latter-day revivers of the C
melody saxophone recently discussed
by John Robert Brown in
JJ. ‘Wonder Land’ and ‘Broken
Palaces’ consolidated a relationship
with drummer Jeff Barnes,
the first of them a furious blast
of saxophone/percussion that
inevitably called up comparisons
with Trane/Ali, the second closer
to the mysterious, almost Middle
Eastern sound that Morgan pursues
I suspect the C melody playing on
‘Nisir’ nudged him further in this
direction. On most of these tracks,
and particularly on soprano, Morgan
gets a plangent shawm-like
sound, with a pleasant, controlled
wobble; or perhaps it’s inspired
by label boss George Haslam’s
tarogato, though it’s put to rather
different ends. After listening
several times through, I convinced
myself that the only obvious
influence here was pre-Moiré
Trevor Watts, the mournful
melodist of ‘Prayer For Peace’.
That lineage is particularly obvious
on the lovely title track,
which also draws on a certain tradition
of modern English pastoral.
One can almost imagine it turning
up on a Robert Fripp project . . . or
something by Hans Koch . . .
There’s not much bebop in this
music. Morgan doesn’t go in for
flashy virtuosity. The line is always
thoughtful and measured. Barnes is
still a key component of the sound,
but Ambler and French, Haywood
less obviously, make significant
interventions. As a long-standing
fan, my vote is probably assumed,
but this really is a fascinating
record, packed with atmosphere,
unflashily clever, emotional without
Brian Morton Jazz Journal, June 2010
03/05/2010 Bruce Lee Gallanter
GREG MORGAN With CHRIS AMBLER/DAN HAYWOOD/JEFF BARNES/PETE FRENCH - Domino (Slam 281; UK) This music draws on an ancient tradition: it owes as much to Aeschylus as it does to late-John Coltrane and Albert Ayler. The expressionism of the music - fragmented rhythms, atonality, deeply-felt melodic beauty - is there to intensify the unity of the drama. The pieces are like disconnected scenes: dialogue, recitative, chorus, aria. And the story is perhaps Mazeppa.
"Greg Morgan on tenor & soprano saxes, with Dan Haywood on guitar, Pete French on organ and Jeff Barnes & Chas Ambler on drums. I can't say that I was familiar with any of the members of quintet before hearing this disc, but the Slam label is renown for introducing us the dozen of fine musicians from the UK, as well as Italy, Argentina & Cuba. Saxist Greg Morgan wrote all of the songs on this disc. Although there are two drummers, they only play together on two pieces. The group has a more earthy, jazz/rock sort of sound. When Greg switches to soprano sax on "Frogs for Snakes" he sounds like he playing bagpipes or something equally spiritual or ritualistic with swirling percussion and guitar underneath. There is a somber, eerie duo for tenor sax and organ which is nice change of pace from some of the more intense discs I've reviewed today. Mr. Morgan switches to piano for parts of two pieces and plays elegantly on "Morning Land". This disc seems more like a solo offering at times since only the sax is featured on most of these pieces. The good thing is that Greg Morgan does have a strong tone on both saxes and shines throughout." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
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