"Unity, A Retrospective is a fresh and lively,
soul-filled, moving, energized, melodic, jiggy,
rhythmic, head bobbin', shoulder bouncin',
toe tapper. Love it!!"
Faunée Williams, jazz radio programmer, WPFW-FM
"As both creative musician and organizer of talent-filled ensembles, Byron Morris has been a mainstay on the Washington, D.C., jazz scene for four decades. His bands and the recording sessions for their albums have served as veritable schools of music for the many musicians who have passed through them. Contributing to his Unity: A Retrospective (By-Mor Music) are such notable artists as singer Jay Clayton, pianist Cedric Lawson, the late trumpeter Vincent McEwan, bassists Don Pate and Frank Clayton, the late drummer Tyrone Walker, percussionist Abu Sharif, and leader Byron Morris on alto and tenor saxophones and flute. “One gets a feel for the eclecticism that took place in the 1970s,” says Pepe González in the CD’s liner note, an astute observation, for the several sessions gathered together here both draw from several eras of the music’s history and display the wide-ranging sources that these players have been inspired by. Well balanced between classic tunes of modern jazz and arresting originals by several of the performers, Unity: A Retrospective displays the collective teamwork that characterizes jazz at its best while showcasing the virtuosity and individuality of its musicians."
W. Royal Stokes, author of Growing Up With Jazz: Twenty-Four Musicians Talk About Their Lives and Careers and other books on jazz.
"Byron Morris and Unity is a spirited ensemble in every sense of that word. They exemplify the brand of adventure, tempered with reverence for the tradition that permeated the jazz ranks during the 1970s, yet this compilation maintains a contemporary freshness."
Willard Jenkins, The Independent Ear (www.openskyjazz.com)
The latest project is the new CD, which is a collection of music from studio and live dates recorded by Unity during the late 1970s – early 1980’s.
- Eyewitness News Bluze
- Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
- Entrenched in the Blues
- Lay It On The Line
- Ball’s Groove
- Suite to Rahsaan Roland Kirk
- Lonely Woman
Buy: CD Baby
Unity, A Retrospective has previously unreleased performances from the late 1970s/early '80s that feature Morris and his musicians in excellent form.
Most of the selections match Morris with trumpeter Vincent McEwan in a sextet that sometimes also includes pianist Cedric Lawson. Jay Clayton takes vocals on a straightforward Goodbye Pork Pie Hat and the adventurous ERAA. While much of the other music could be considered hard bop, including the soulful Entrenched In The Blues, the closing version of Ornette Coleman's Lonely Woman features Morris at his freest. On that extended track he is matched with trumpeter Alonzo Bailey, drummer Abu Sharif and the powerful bassist Hakim Jami for some explosive explorations.
Considering its many sources, the music on Unity, A Retrospective is well recorded, has a strong unity, is easily recommended.
Scott Yanow, Los Angeles Jazz Scene
Unity, A Retrospective by Byron Morris and Unity is a welcome gift from a long time friend. I've had the pleasure of performing and recording with Mr. Morris on a number of occasions at about the same time as the music presented here and this is the closest thing to a time machine I've ever experienced. Back to the future for real! UNITY is an exciting ensemble and this retrospective captures the flavor of the moment back in the day.
Joe McPhee, Musician
Unity, A Retrospective is quite the jazz history
Mark Keresman, Jazz Inside Magazine
Unity, A Retrospective shows Morris and a rotating cast of players having fun with some classic covers and band originals. It also preserves the work of several Unity members who have died — brass man and percussionist Vincent McEwan, pianist Gene Adler, drummer Tyrone Walker, bassist Lenny Martin and trumpeter Alonzo Bailey.
The set begins with a bright and bouncy cover of Kenny Barron’s Sunshower, where McEwan’s trumpet moves from smooth to ripping. A Morris original, Eyewitness News Bluze, is a swinging strutter, with the composer using his sax for some playful, twisting phrases that never get too busy for the groove. Fun performances abound here. On Charles Mingus’ Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, vocalist Jay Clayton lets her voice wrap around the lyric, Morris channels some Lester Young juju and Adler splashes bluesy piano colors. Unity pianist Cedric Lawson’s Ball’s Groove, recorded live, gives McEwan and Morris a deep-pocketed palette for tributes to the song’s namesake, Julian “Cannonball” Adderly. Morris and Clayton get hot freakouts going on Morris’ ERAA, with drummer Tyrone Walker and bassist Frank Clayton steadily driving the hyper-tempo swing. The disc ends with more uptempo work on Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman, also cut live. It features splashy and daring drum work from Richard “Abu Sharif” Spencer, working underneath freestyle wildness from Morris, trumpeter Bailey and bassist Hakim Jami before Spencer delivers his own powerful solo.
Tad Dickens, Roanoke Times
The two montages were created
for the CD package by Michael Wilderman/jazzvisionsphotos.com
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