Morris was born in Long Beach, California. Before beginning his musical career, he served in the US forces in the Vietnam War. Morris came to attention with saxophonist David Murray's groups in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Morris's brother, double bassist Wilber Morris, sometimes performed and recorded with Murray during this period. Morris led a group called Orchestra SLANG. The group features Drummer Kenny Wollesen, alto saxophonist Jonathon Haffner, trumpeter Kirk Knuffke and others. He performed and presented regularly as part of the Festival of New Trumpet Music, held annually in New York City. Morris wrote most of the incidental music for the 1989 TV show A Man Called Hawk, which starred Avery Brooks, with whom he co-wrote the theme music, along with Stanley Clarke. He also played with well-known artist and would-be drummer A.R. Penck in 1990.
Morris is the originator of Conduction (a term borrowed from physics), a type of structured free improvisation where Morris directs and conducts an improvising ensemble with a series of hand and baton gestures. These conductions have received generally positive reviews, and are often considered quite unique, not quite fitting into any one musical genre. Critic Thom Jurek has written, "There are no records like Butch Morris' conduction sides, nor could there be, though he wishes there were." and Ed Hazell writes, "At his best, Morris can shake players out of their old habits, or place a microscope on one aspect of a musician's artistry and build an orchestral fantasia around it."
- In Touch But Out Of Reach (Kharma, 1978)
- New York City Artist's Collective: Play Butch Morris (NYCAC, 1984)
- Trios (Dossier, 1986)
- Current Trends in Racism in Modern America (Sound Aspects, 1986)
- Homeing (Sound Aspects, 1988)
- Mass-X-Communication (FMP, 1991)
- Dust To Dust (New World, 1991)
- When the Sun is Out You Don't See Stars (FMP, 1993)
- Testament (New World, 1995)
- Conduction (series) (New World, 1996)
- Burning Clouds (FMP, 1996)
- Berlin Skyscraper (FMP, 1998)
- The Rite (Burnt Sugar, 2003)
With Wayne Horvitz
With Frank Lowe
- Exotic Heartbreak (Soul Note, 1981)
- Tricks of the Trade (Marge)
- The Other Side (Palm)
- Sweet Space
- Live from Soundscape
With David Murray
- Vol.1 Penthouse Jazz (1977, Circle)
- Vol.2 Holy Siege on Intrigue (1977, Circle)
- Let the Music Take You (Marge, 1978)
- Last of the Hipman (Red, 1978)
- David Murray Big Band (DIW, 1991)
- 3+2=XXXX (Dimensional Sound Studio 1, 1983)
- Jurek, Thom, "Berlin Skyscraper '95" review from Allmusic.com
- Hazell, Ed, "Out of the lab: Butch Morris's bold experiment yields 10 CDs" URL accessed February 15, 2007
- Jarenwattananon, Patrick (2013-01-22). "Butch Morris, Jazz Bandleader And Conductor, Dies : A Blog Supreme". NPR. Retrieved 2013-01-30.
- Margasak, Peter (1998-12-17). "Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris, inventor of musical conduction, dead at 65 | Bleader". Chicagoreader.com. Retrieved 2013-01-30.