Nublu Orchestra - Live Series​​​​​​​
Album cover design
Once upon a time, for a few years at the dawn of the 21st century, Avenue C in New York City’s East Village had its own Zubin Mehta, its own Herbert Von Karajan, its own Daniel Barenboim. He was a veteran of both the Vietnam War and, even more heroically, NYC’s avant-garde jazz scene. His name was Lawrence “Butch” Morris and he was a well-established legend. The orchestra he conducted and the repertoire they played differed considerably from those employed by the above-named gentlemen in style, substance, tools and content. It was a motley crew of musicians from a wide array of backgrounds, styles, disciplines and genres, and the music he drew out of them, far from a set-in-stone catalog of well-established pieces from the European classical tradition, was informed by jazz improvisation, feeding off of the electricity of the streets around them and spontaneously creating the sound of NOW, on the fly and out of thin air, brought to life by each exacting stroke of Butch’s baton. Each performance was a unique moment never to be repeated and there were no “hits” you were guaranteed to hear. But the recordings of these performances are revelatory and give a strong sense of something strange, new, mysterious and wonderful about to happen, or that’s happening already, and these are the recordings, made all around the world, that Nublu Records is now presenting to you.
The history of Butch Morris and the Nublu Orchestra goes back to the late 90s and the friendship between Butch and Nublu’s founder and owner, musician Ilhan Ersahin. Butch and Ilhan became great friends and Butch was present at the very inception of the club. Butch actually became, along with the legendary Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, a patron saint of sorts for Nublu, except that Butch stopped in for his customary nightcap every single night and regaled everybody with his hip, knowing, offbeat wisdom and humor. The kind you’d expect from a man who once released an album called “Current Trends In Racism In Modern America (A Work In Progress).” Several years into the club’s existence after its official 2002 opening, with a core roster of musicians, bands and DJs having quickly begun to establish itself, the idea came up to form a supergroup of sorts, or more ambitiously, an orchestra, comprised of players who were at the club on a weekly and often daily basis, to be conducted by Butch. But instead of playing the cornet he was known for, Butch would conduct all these players in a very strict and demanding (but loving) way, not just waving a baton but getting what he wanted from a particular player by using nothing more than a glance. Players came to recognize these glances and fear them, not wanting to be singled out during the inevitable band meetings/pep speeches/dressing downs Butch would administer in the basement band room between sets. The Nublu Orchestra also distinguished itself via the use of beats and electronics that were brought in by different contributors, and which also served to distinguish the Nublu Orchestra from Butch’s other Conduction work, which he had pioneered and was noted for.
It wasn’t long before Butch had whipped the Nublu Orchestra into good enough shape to take on the road to the world beyond Avenue C and the dozen recordings being released now were taped all over: Bergamo, Paris, São Paulo, Lisbon, Rome, Skopje, Saalfaden, Pomigliano, Sant’Anna Arresi and good old NYC at Nublu where it all began, and also at Joe’s Pub. The 12th title in the series is called “Encores” and consists of just that, brief encores performed at assorted shows around the world. Butch conducted the Orchestra for the final time in 2012 and sadly passed away in January 2013. His spirit (as well as a giant portrait of him) still permeates Nublu, both its original location and its newer location at 151 Avenue C, as well as on the fantastic recordings that Nublu Records is very proud to now present to you.
Greg Caz
June 2020 – New York

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