Willie Morris, Attentive Listening Review

Willie Morris’ Attentive Listening—A Journey Through Active Listening


Willie Morris, Attentive Listening Review

Willie Morris’ Attentive Listening—A Journey Through Active Listening

by Ferell Aubre

Willie-Morris-the-jazz-word-cdWillie Morris’ Attentive Listening, released under Posi-Tone Records in 2024, delivers a collection of tracks with a vibrant energy of jazz’s many possibilities from Morris and his gifted ensemble. This album, crafted in the bustling creativity of Brooklyn and finessed in the tranquility of Lake Oswego, demonstrates Morris’ grasp of the tenor saxophone and his musical vocabulary of modern jazz. The gifted ensemble is Morris on the tenor saxophone, Patrick Cornelius on alto saxophone and alto flute, Jon Davis on piano, Boris Kozlov on bass, and Rudy Royston on drums.

Attentive Listening has a thematic exploration that resonates with our digitally fragmented era: the art of listening. Not just as a passive act, but as an active, engaging process. Morris, through his compositions, invites us to create a listening mindset that is akin to a dialogue—with the music itself and the intricacies and nuances it carries.

“Water Fountain of Youth” initiates the journey with a vibrant, up-tempo swing piece that encapsulates the essence of today’s jazz, with its evolutionary roots in Hard Bop. Morris and Cornelius, on alto saxophone and flute, respectively, complement each other well. Both players have unique twists on the core modern jazz vernacular. Morris’ solo has a strong melodic development, weaving through harmonic goalposts with ease and creativity.

“Terminal Lucidity” is a ballad of beauty with a flowing melody and balanced counterpoint. The album pivots towards a more intervallic color system in “The Imitation Game,” as the chemistry between Davis’ chordal colors and Morris propels the piece into a realm of spirited swing.

“To Worlds Unknown” and “Delusion of Understanding” are the ensemble’s creations of different feels and modern textures found in the contemporary jazz landscape. Here, the ensemble shines, delivering performances that are technically impressive while still having a compelling energy and feel. The grounding unit of Kozlov and Royston style each feel gorgeous.

“Leaving Paradise,” a Cornelius composition, introduces a bossa nova elegance, highlighting the captivating charm of Cornelius’ alto flute. “Moving Right Along and Daly Minor Blues underline the ensemble’s grasp of contemporary jazz and bebop traditions. “La Mesha,” the album’s only cover, is rendered with sensitivity and understanding that pays homage to Kenny Dorham while maintaining the ensemble’s unique voice.

Attentive Listening is today’s jazz, with its evolution echoing the traditions of Hard Bop while embracing contemporary sounds and feels. Morris articulates a clear vision of jazz that invites listeners to engage with the music and, perhaps, discover something within the act of listening itself.


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