Butch Morris could be fierce. If he didn’t like the way things were going or how you were reacting he could fling sparks of anger across the stage that were absolutely devastating. A friend of mine came up to me at the break in one of our rehearsals and said he wasn’t sure he’d make it. He was convinced Butch had it in for him. Another friend almost got hit by a set of headphones Butch threw across the room at him. But when Butch got what he was looking for, man, it was heaven.
I’m glad I got to experience that magic. Butch could lead a room full of musicians to unimagined and unparalleled places. It was nirvana for me to be a part of it; being in a swinging band is the pinnacle of belonging. It’s like making something from nothing, a scaffolding built on a diverse community of musical language. Butch knew what he was after and worked on it over many, many years.
For several seasons Festival of New Trumpet Music brought in Butch to create a piece with only trumpeters. The band ranged from the low teens to over thirty players. These were special nights of community for those who played and those who attended. Butch worked hard with us. It was a serious endeavor. I’ll never forget how he bent to our needs and re-imagined our sounds. And flashed thunderbolts as needed.
Butch was a friend of the family, a brilliant man, and a friend in music. We’ll miss him.