Born and raised in the United Kingdom during the defining era of rock and pop music, one would have expected Nigel Morris to have found his passion for playing in the reverberation of Lonnie Donnegan, Tommy Steele and Cliff Richards; artists who were laying the foundation for the coming British Invasion of the Beatles, the Stones and the DC5.
But expecting the expected when it comes to Nigel Morris is never a safe bet. From the very beginning Nigel has lived life, and charted his musical journey, to the beat of some very different drums. Where others were tuning into Elvis, the Everly Brothers and the Rat Pack, Nigel was enraptured by the music of Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. Sure Ringo had a groove, Mitch Jones had power and Keith Moon had, well he was just crazy. Still it was drummers like Tony Williams, Philly Joe Jones and Jack DeJohnette that spoke to Nigel. It wasn’t just that they played time and pocket well, it was their ability to talk with their drums and their willingness to play outside the borders that most intrigued Nigel. Of great interest to Nigel was a whole new style of Jazz that was growing in the UK and Europe the late 50s and early 60s. The Free Jazz Movement, a name coined by saxophonist Ornette Coleman, was exploring terrain Nigel had not even known existed and he immediately wanted to be a trailblazer in the genre. It was the stylings of Elvin Jones, Steve Gadd and Philly Joe Jones that were creating the music that would capture Nigel’s heart and hands for the rest of his career. The journey there though, had a few turns along the way. Nigel’s father was an upright bassist in a local dance band and Nigel was fascinated by the occasional drum kit that find its way into his living room after the band’s rehearsals. Though Nigel tried his hand at clarinet, it was the drums that drew him in and when he finally confessed this to his parents, his Dad was more than happy to oblige. Lessons followed and his Dad scored Nigel his first gig which cemented his commitment to the skins. Nigel honed his chops, playing as much as he could club owners, audiences and fellow musicians would allow, and eventually he found himself with some mates playing on cruise ships that were sailing out of Tilbury Docks. In 1970 Nigel found himself in London playing drums in his friend Ron Herman’s modern jazz group Cirrus. On one memorable night, the band got a gig at the prestigious 100 Club and Ron invited local guitar hero Gary Boyle, to sit in for the evening. The chemistry was immediate and very soon after that, Isotope was born in 1972.
For the next several years Nigel played and recorded with the group. Their debut album “Isotope” was voted one of the best of the year by Melody Maker and the band itself was gaining wider recognition for their original Fusioning of jazz and rock. Two more albums followed, “Illusion” in 1974 and “Deep End” in 1975, as well as some extensive touring. Eventually the band called it quits but Nigel continued on to work with artists such as Hugh Hopper, Paul Rutherford and Joël Dugrenot. Along the way he met legend Tony Oxley, who was one of the pioneers of the Free Improvisation movement in jazz music during the 60s and 70s. Tony and Nigel became good friends and to this day Nigel credits Oxley’s mentoring to be one of the foundational cornerstones of his style. Paralleling his musical odyssey, Nigel also had another journey that was of equal impact and of far greater importance in his life. It too began back in Wales as a young child, but it was not in a dark nightclub but rather a sunny field inside of a big white tent. It did involve music though as Nigel and some friends found themselves in the middle of a revival meeting being hosted by some traveling Christians from Africa. There was this great music and a bunch of stories about this guy named Jesus who seemed to get around quite a bit. At some point in the meeting there was an altar call made by one of the missionaries, and without any pretext or prior inclination, Nigel found himself at the front of the alter on his knees asking Christ to come into his life. In a way that mimicked his early drum education, Nigel found his heart and passion for Jesus to be all in but the discipline and rudiments of walking the Christian path were a bit more difficult to learn. Nonetheless, Nigel’s belief in a loving God whose Son died on the Cross to redeem us back into eternal relationship has never left him.
His passion for music and Christ came together when Nigel found himself part of the Third Wave Movement (TWM), a Pentecostal revival that swept the US, the UK and Europe. Begun by Vineyard Church in Anaheim, CA under the leadership of John Wimber, the TWM was responsible for bringing thousands of people to Christ each year. With its emphasis on being in active relationship with the Holy Spirit and being present for the working of miracles in daily life, the TWM saw the unleashing of God’s power and presence in a way that had not been seen prior. Vineyard Church in addition to its Gospel ministry was also responsible for creating the sound and style that has become the bedrock for contemporary Christian Worship music. Artist/writers such as Andy Park, Brian Doerksen, Casy Corum, Kathryn Scott, and Jeremy Riddle all found their beginnings and voice at Vineyard. Being able to bring his love for music and his love for Jesus together was simply a logical step, though Nigel would rightfully claim it was a step of the heart. Nigel became a well-respected compassion ministry pastor for Vineyard and also an acclaimed worship leader whose talent has been featured on several of Vineyard Worship’s recordings.
In 2015 Nigel began to explore new vistas in improvisational playing which resulted in his 2016 release “Soundscapes and Conversations” and his 2017 album “Repercussion!,” a recording done in tribute to Tony Oxley who continues to be a dear friend of Nigel’s. In 2018, Nigel stepped down from his pastoral position at Vineyard, Anaheim but both he and his wife Lynn continue to serve God, though you will often find them doing so on the deck of a cruise ship. Nigel remains committed to the unconventional both in his playing and his service. He has no preconception about where his drumsticks will fall nor where God wants his feet to walk, but he is very excited and ready for whatever path he is led to.