Butch Morris is a cornetist, composer & improvisor who has led diverse ensembles of musicians from all over the globe in what he has termed "conduction" - conducted improvisation. (Morris has also played, recorded & collaborated with David Murray and Wayne Horvitz.) The results are (for elastic-minded listeners) often unpredictable and exhilarating. Far from being an avant-blowout free-for-all, Morris has the spirits of Ellington and Mahler helping to guide his conductor's baton. "Conduction #38" is a wondrous 46-minute labyrinth of eerie textures and dense, heart-swelling orchestral passages. Like Ellington, he brings out the best in the players; like Mahler (and Bruckner, Hindemith and some Shostakovich), there are elaborate and emotional layers and levels of dark, rich lyricism.
If you think it has a "classical" sound, you're right - it also has the resonance of a free jazz album (think Muhal Richard Abrams, Henry Threadgill) as well as the questing nature of an album of "experimental" music (Stockhausen, et. al). Morris directs an amazing, international cast of players: Myra Melford (piano); Zeena Parkins (electric harp); Hans Koch (reeds); Tristan Honsinger (cello); William Parker & Fred Hopkins (bass); Reggie Nicholson & Brian Carrott (vibes) - but the "spotlight" is on the totality of the music itself. The fact that this album's been out for a few years in no excuse (for the proud & brave amongst you) not to hear it. Also recommended for those who like a Middle Eastern tinge/influence in their improv'd proceedings is CONDUCTION # 25/26, ISTANBUL (New World Records).