One day, I came across Keisuke Matsuno on Don Mount’s YouTube channel. Suddenly it was going, “Who is this guy? This is a kind of guitar I love: exactly the way he does what he does, in the context in which he does it.” Certainly, there are other guitar players playing modern guitar sounds within the context of already outside, noisy, or fully electronic music, like Matsuno’s work with Hans Tammen. Rarer is the ability to inject these elements into a largely consonant context, like Nels Cline with Wilco, Ethan Ballinger’s work with country star Lee Ann Womack, or the subversive playing Matsuno himself does in saxophonist Timo Vollbrecht’s Fly Magic ensemble.
Great guitarists abound. There is even a thrilling number of guitarists with their own instrumental voice. Fewer are musicians of any kind who invent their own musical language. Playing things never played before is not that difficult; playing them in a way that possesses such a strong internal logic it draws listeners to a sound they have never experienced, is a marvel. Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, and Stevie Wonder are among the few who introduced us to new ways of hearing through their explorations. Joe Morris also fits in this category. The first time I saw him play, I was struck by how his unique note and rhythm choices made immediate sense to me.
Between his many groups and a separate career as an upright bassist, Morris is one of the hardest working men in show business. His recent release Raoul, with keyboardist Jamie Saft and drummer Mike Pride, for Eraldo Bernocchi’s RareNoiseRecords, is a rampaging, electric, free improv set that in other hands might have easily devolved to pure noise, but thanks to the musicality of Morris & Co. remains engaging and involving throughout. Get a glimpse of the guitarist’s motives and objectives here.
Ian Smit is a self-avowed David Torn fan. But Torn is just a jumping off point for him. You can check out his solo excursions at his cleverly named YouTube site, Racketlauncher. He also plays with an interesting seven-piece band named Monkeyworks around the New Jersey/Pennsylvania border. For his Reader’s Rig contribution, he goes into detail about his elaborate system and offers some sage advice about gear.