A difficult venture, the guitar/drum duo. Not only is there no safety net to land on when things don’t go as expected — no pianist to cover errors with resplendent chords, no saxophonist to counter a squealing wrong fingering to turn it into a revolutionary gesture — but what seems to be missed is the feeling of inner concurrence that an accomplished ensemble should always draw out of a performance. So, what remains is the study of the different languages, seeing if those jargons mesh well enough. In this sense, Creatures by Joe Morris and Luther Gray is a satisfying release.
The ascension to a superior level of communication happens through intense moments of mutual listening, which the protagonists continually offer. However, these two maintain a coolness and restraint that decisively prohibit self-indulgence. The guitarist’s modus operandi, based on short angular fragments linked one after another in conjunction with occasional ostinatos, is outlined by a classic clean timbre which renders these figurations remindful of past giants of the instruments, still marked by a distinctive personality. Changelessness becomes a virtue, residual bells and whistles are jettisoned in favor of a complex yet controlled conception that privileges the core of the matter rather than lowering the guard in front of compromise.
Gray responds with flurries, rolls and swinging disquisitions whose correspondence with Morris’ playing is practically flawless, a method that includes optimistic routines and clever inventiveness; emblematic stuff that nevertheless works wonders when the wrists are supple and the ears are finely tuned to what the partner is saying. The record flows effortlessly, the music a reminder that good jazz can also be played by just two individuals that, in this particular instance, seemed to be following instincts of the same kind.