Valarie Morris,
Reeding Between the Lines
(Skyblue, 1999)

When I first heard Valarie Morris' work on Reeding Between the Lines, I wondered where the synthesizers where. Instead of using technology to help put her music forth, Morris choreographs a multitude of live musicians and vocalists in her latest album.

The album is a nice compilation of jazz and folk music, but with a wonderful twist. Morris places layers and layers of instrumental music upon one another, forming a stew of sound. Accordions, saxophones, piano and multiple vocals lay a nice groundwork.

The first song, "Around the Corner," takes layers of accordion music -- yes, that's right, accordion music -- and puts it into a light-hearted jazz tune that is accompanied by the sax. "Place Pigalle" (another song with an accordion lead) reminds me of sitting quietly at an Italian restaurant being serendaded by an accordion-playing waiter. The song is slow and melodious, with a funny zing.

The Sax Maniacs add grace to Morris' album, and while "Around the Corner" stacks the accordions, "Five Movements" creates levels of the different saxophones: alto, tenor, soprano and baritone. Morris also features Vivian Quinn Sayles on the piano, and I'm already fond of her jazzy piano songs.

Morris definitely has themes to her album. "Sunny Side Up" and "Scrambled Eggs" seem to harken to the incredible, edible egg, with light-hearted and extremely optimistic songwriting. "Before the Storm" and "After the Storm" bring out in music the emotions of moody weather. (Considering that Morris is from the Bay Area, she just might be referring to the long-standing effects of El Nino and La Nina.)

All-in-all, Morris presents a good album that will delight instrumental fans new to her work, and will be a surprise to those already familiar with her previous recordings.

[ by Jade Falcon ]

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