Burning Cloud

Burning Cloud Butch Morris (cornet), Lê Quan Ninh (percussion), J.A. Deane (trombone, flute & electronics)

Ozone-Burning Red (19:16), Ozone-Burning Blue (18:27), Ozone-Burning Yellow (16:48)

Recorded live on October 29, 1993 at Podewil in Berlin during the festival Total Music Meeting

FMP CD 77


Reviewed by: Phil England for the magazine The Wire #156 (UK) - February 1997

Butch Morris is perhaps currently best known for his Conductions: open, conducted compositions for large groups of improvisors. He is, however, also a free improvising cornet player with a history of pushing the jazz tradition. This CD brings him together with electronically-expanded trombonist JA Deane and the French-based Vietnamese percussionist Le Quan Ninh. All three players employ extraordinary sonic palettes. Ninh, who doubles as a performer of contemporary classical works (Xenakis, Cage and the like), plays largely metal percussion in a way that emphasises textures rather than metre. Similarly, Deane's electronic contributions act as multi-coloured backdrops. Together they weave a shifting canvas of time, space and timbre which is open and expansive. Whether or not intentional -- and the track titles hint at this possibility -- Burning Cloud with its complex beauty, sense of space and frequently plaintive quality can be read as an elegy for the natural world. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by: Declan O 'Driscoll for the magazine AVANT #2 (UK) - Summer 1997

'Composed by Butch Morris' says the booklet immediately prompting the questions, but how? and how much?. Morris has been credited with re-evaluating the always paradoxical and contradictory role of the composer in jazz and improvised music by establishing the idea of "conduction" which allows him to direct a group of improvisers and the structure and the shape of their music by using various agreed signals thus, it is suggested, diminish only slightly the autonomy of the musicians, an approach thoroughly documented on the 10 CD set "Testament" (which, if I ever have enough money, I may one day hear)

It is unclear if such a method was used on "Burning Clouds" or what exactly it was that won him sole credit as composer. It would be interesting to speculate on how different, if at all, the three musicians contributions might have been if they had played in a totally improvised setting. As it is this music does have a spatial structure that might be difficult to achieve without some directive force. There is too a marvelous blend of textures and tones, a real clarity of intention which allows both horns to overlap, combining their individual visions with the duality of purpose and avoiding any competitive posturing.

JA Deane's subtle use of electronics -- mostly use to create drone effects -- helps to underline and develope ideas as they arise. This is music which takes it's time, unafraid to approach silence. but which never lacks energy, momentum and conviction. Butch Morris is, with his range of mutes and extended techniques, able to match any electronic sounds and match both horns bringing a narrative quality to the music, propelling events with descriptive, if abstract, details. Much of the success of this trio is due to LE QUAN NINH whose playing represents a rejection of the conventional jazz derived kit in favour of a greater range of purely percussive options which he uses with immense resourcefulness to respond to, and sharpen, every nuance in the music.

Whatever the parameters used in constructing these sounds it can be viewed as a strong argument for the interventionist approach to improvisation.
Reviewed by: Thom Jurek for the site All Music

This three-movement "meditation" on the environment was recorded during a break in the Total Musik Meeting of 1993 in Berlin. This 53-minute work -- in three titled movements -- is played on cornet by Morris; trombone, flute, and a myriad of electronic devices by Deane ; and Ninh using every kind of metallic instrument he can get his hands on. And while it's true that this music is "outside," it is only in the context that it is improvised and played outside normal time signatures and notions of rhythm, meter, and timbre. But it possesses all those things too. In this way it is inside: inside the focus of meditation and music. It is intimate, quiet, subdued, reflective, and yet full of the kind of searching that only three musical masters in search of speaking to each other can take. In "Ozone-Burning Red," Morris takes the lead with long, whispered lines almost rolling out of his cornet and Deane uses an electronic backdrop to illuminate his playing before entering with a trombone, while Ninh shimmers cymbals and gongs with his fingers and brushes to illustrate the solemnity of the collective's purpose. When the tempo begins to accelerate, it is because rhythm dictates a literal change in the weather and becomes the means by which thunder can be heard. When the second movement, "Burning Blue," is ushered in, Deane and Morris share the short, contrapuntal phrases that offer the utterance Ninh needs to paint his backdrop. Again, even in its angriest moments, the work is hushed, contemplative, and purposefully restrained. There is lyricism at play here that the ear doesn't pick up at first; harmonics shift back and forth between the three instruments and the static electrical effects boxes Deane plays his trombone through for more "voices." By the end of the last movement, "Burning Yellow," everything fades into an invisibility symbolizing the place where birth and death intersect, both figuratively and musically. Music as we know it has been completely deconstructed, taken back, stripped from its framework and even the architecture of improvisation, undone all the way back to primordial (not even basic) sound that hangs in the mist where something once might have been -- though the listener is not sure -- and something may be again. Only a few raw cries from the cornet at the very nadir of this work allow for a sliver of light in the darkness where everything is blind, everything is frightened, and everything is equal. This work is a monument to these three musicians' total willingness to communicate with each other, led by forces they didn't even understand when they were creating this masterpiece.
Reviewed by: Dino for the magazine Revue & Corrigée #31 - March 1997

Enregistré en 1993 (live, comme il se doit chez FMP qui tolère malheureusement quelques erreurs de balance de son), ce CD peut être considéré comme un enregistrement historique, celui d'une véritable rencontre inter-culturelle. En effet, même si les trois artistes en confrontation se connaissent (pour participation à quelques conductions de Butch Morris : à ce propos, n'hésitez pas à vous procurer "Testament. A conduction collection", extraordinaire coffret de 10 CD, nous permettant de suivre le procédé en marche, avec le meilleur de l'improvisation mondiale, de Toulouse à New-York. C'est chez New World Records, 80478-2, produit en 1995 à partir de conductions enregistrées entre 1989 et 1995), l'orientalisme du tromboniste (et flûtiste et électronicien) américain J.A. Dean, le jazz (à la fois futuriste et classique) de Mr Morris (cornet) et la vision permanente de Lê Quan, le percussionniste, nous entraînent dans une dimension que je me permets de qualifier de psychédélique. Voilà donc un immense moment culturel et une œuvre d'art, accessible. Une certaine conception de la transe, de la transe tranquille à même de rendre la sieste active (suis-je assez clair ?).
Reviewed by: Alexandre Pierrepont for Jazz Magazine 169 - April 1997

S'il n'y avait que le "naturel" de certains égrégores reconquis sur les formats entérinés par le jazz, l'association, l'agencement de deux cuivres et de percussions mobiliserait la seule curiosité. Mais Butch Morris et J.A. Deane ont aussi remonté leurs instruments dans le sens inverse de leur plus caractéristique exploitation : alors qu'ils approfondissent les sillons enténébrés qui ignorent la brillance et l'appesantissement, c'est aux brisées percussives de Lê Quan Ninh que revient la charge de dissiper, de faire ressortir ce qui sinon se perdrait au lointain intérieur. Un autre cornet balbutie ou scande, un autre trombone injecte ou déplie, d'autres peaux et cymbales frappent l'imagination (sans parler du théâtre d'ombres sonores projetées par l'électronique) : toutes les inspirations de cet album différent.