Joe Morris (guitarist)

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Joe Morris
Birth name Joseph Francis Michael Morris
Born (1955-09-13) September 13, 1955 (age 59)
Origin New Haven, Connecticut, United States
Genres Jazz
Free jazz
Avant-garde jazz
Free improvisation
Free Music
Occupation(s) Musician, Teacher
Instruments Guitar, double bass
Labels Riti, Aum Fidelity, Leo, Soul Note, Knitting Factory, Clean Feed, ESP, Hathut, RogueArt

Joe Morris (born Joseph Francis Michael Morris, September 13, 1955) is an American jazz guitarist, bassist, improvisor and composer.

Life and career[edit]

Joe Morris was born in New Haven, Connecticut, United States in 1955. He started on guitar in 1969 and played his first professional gig later that year. With the exception of a few lessons he is self-taught. The influence of Jimi Hendrix and other guitarists of that period led him to concentrate on learning to play the blues. John Coltrane's Om inspired him to learn about Jazz and New Music. He worked to establish his own voice on guitar in a free jazz context from the age of 17. After high school he performed in rock bands, rehearsed in jazz bands and played totally improvised music until 1975 when he moved to Boston.[1]

Between 1975 and 1978 he was active on the Boston creative music scene. In 1983 he formed his own record company, Riti, and recorded his first Lp Wraparound. An important early mentor and playing partner was the legendary but little-recorded pianist Lowell Davidson.[2]

Between 1989 and 1993 he performed and recorded with his electric trio Sweatshop and electric quartet Racket Club. In 1994 he became the first guitarist to lead his own session in the twenty year history of Black Saint/Soul Note with the trio recording Symbolic Gesture, and he has continued to record extensively for many labels such as Leo, Knitting Factory, AUM Fidelity, Hathut, Clean Feed, ESP and RogueArt. In addition to leading his own groups, he has recorded and performed with among others: Matthew Shipp, William Parker, John Zorn, Joe Maneri, Rob Brown, Ivo Perelman, Ken Vandermark and DKV Trio, Jim Hobbs, Steve Lantner, Daniel Levin, Petr Cancura and David S. Ware.[1]

He has lectured and conducted workshops trroughout the US and Europe. He is a former member of the faculty of Tufts University Extension College and is currently on the faculty at New England Conservatory in the jazz and improvisation department.[3]


Morris is perhaps the most significant guitarist to play free jazz since Sonny Sharrock. Morris has stated that his flowing single-note technique was inspired more by traditional African musics, and by saxophone players like Eric Dolphy and Jimmy Lyons, than by other guitarists. He considers Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy, Leroy Jenkins, Thelonious Monk, Jimi Hendrix, and West African string music as major influences.[3] In his solo work, he often does not use distortion or effects, striving for a purity of sound, but has made occasional use of a serrated pick to "bow" the strings of his guitar, creating an otherworldly, harmonic-rich sound. He also plays banjo and banjo-uke, and since 2000 has increasingly focused on playing bass.[1]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

  • Wraparound (Riti, 1983)
  • Graffiti in Two Part (RogueArt, 1985, issued 2012)
  • Human Rites (Riti, 1987)
  • Sweatshop (Riti, 1988–90)
  • Flip & Spike (Riti, 1992)
  • Symbolic Gesture (Soul Note, 1994)
  • Illuminate (Leo, 1995)
  • No Vertigo (Leo, 1995)
  • Elsewhere (Homestead, 1996)
  • You Be Me (Soul Note, 1997)
  • Invisible Weave (No More, 1997)
  • Antennae (AUM Fidelity, 1997)
  • Racket Club (About Time, 1998)
  • Like Rays (Knitting Factory, 1998)
  • A Cloud of Black Birds (AUM Fidelity, 1998)
  • Deep Telling (Okkadisk, 1999)
  • Many Rings (Knitting Factory, 1999)
  • Underthru (OmniTone, 1999)
  • Soul Search (AUM Fidelity, 2000)
  • At the Old Office (Knitting Factory, 2000)
  • Singularity (AUM Fidelity, 2001)
  • Age of Everything (Riti, 2002)
  • Stone House: Likewise (Riti, 2003)
  • Beautiful Existence (Clean Feed, 2005)
  • Rebus (Clean Feed, 2007) – with Ken Vandermark, Luther Gray
  • High Definition (Hathut, 2008)
  • Elm City Duets (Clean Feed, 2008) – with Barre Phillips
  • MVP LSD (Riti, 2009)
  • Wildlife (AUM Fidelity, 2009)
  • The Necessary and the Possible (Victo, 2009) - with Simon H. Fell, Alex Ward
  • Colorfield (ESP, 2009)
  • Today on Earth (AUM Fidelity, 2009)
  • Tooth And Nail (Clean Feed, 2010, with Nate Wooley)
  • Creatures (Not Two, 2010) – with Luther Gray
  • Camera (ESP, 2010)
  • Sensor (No Business, 2010)
  • Traits (Riti, 2011)
  • Ambrosia (Riti, 2011) – with Agustí Fernández
  • Altitude (AUM Fidelity, 2012)
  • From the Discrete to the Particular (Relative Pitch, 2012) – with Agustí Fernández, Nate Wooley
  • Balance (Clean Feed, 2014)
  • Mess Hall (hatOLOGY, 2014)

As sideman[edit]

with Rob Brown

With Joe Maneri

with Matthew Shipp

with Whit Dickey

with Steve Lantner

  • Voices Lowered (Leo, 2000)
  • Saying So (Riti, 2004)
  • Blue Yonder (Skycap, 2005)
  • Paradise Road (Skycap, 2006)
  • What You Can Throw (Hathut, 2007)
  • Given – Live in Munster (Hathut, 2008)

with William Parker

with Daniel Levin

  • Don't Go it Alone (Riti, 2004)
  • Some Trees (Hathut, 2006)
  • Blurry (Hathut, 2007)

with Dennis Gonzalez

  • No Photograph Available (Clean Feed, 2006)
  • Songs of Early Autumn (No Business, 2009)

with Jim Hobbs

  • The Story of Mankind (Not Two, 2008)

with Hamid Drake

  • Blissful (Rogueart, 2008)

with David S. Ware

with Petr Cancura

  • Fine Objects (Not Two, 2009)

with Flow Trio

  • Rejuvenation (ESP, 2009)
  • Set Theory, Live at the Stone (Ayler, 2011)

with Stephen Haynes

  • Parrhesia (Engine, 2010)

with Ingebrigt Haker Flaten

  • Now Is (Clean Feed, 2011)

with Noah Kaplan

  • Descendants (Hathut, 2011)

with Ivo Perelman

  • The Hour of the Star (Leo Records, 2011)
  • Family Ties (Leo Records, 2012)
  • Living Jelly (Leo Records, 2012)
  • Serendipity (Leo Records, 2013)
  • One (Rare Noise, 2013)


  • Morris, Joe. Perpetual Frontier / The Properties of Free Music. Riti Publishing, 2012.


  1. ^ a b c Joe Morris at All About Jazz
  2. ^ McCoy, Wilson. "Joe Morris: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Joe Morris at New England Conservatory

External links[edit]