The Boston trio Morphine made a compelling argument for avant-garde minimalism in the '90s. It relied on tenor saxophone, drums and especially bandleader Mark Sandman's funky two-string bass playing. While the rockin' 1993 album Cure for Pain solidified the band's place among hipsters, its work grew more challenging and sensuous on subsequent releases.
Tragically, Sandman died of a heart attack onstage during a 1999 show in Italy, just months before Morphine's most gorgeous album, the home-produced The Night, was released.
Sandman's death left Morphine mates Dana Colley (sax) and Billy Conway (drums) reeling and searching to extend the legacy of the band, which was tremendous in Boston's independent music scene. Colley and Conway organized Orchestra Morphine, a sizable collective of friends and fellow Bostonians that toured in 2000 behind fuller versions of Morphine tunes. That venture birthed Twinemen, the band that has allowed Colley and Conway to move on with their musical careers and explore new ground.
Twinemen, which also features singer-guitarist Laurie Sargent and bassist Stuart Kimball, writes longer, jazzier and more laid-back songs than the tightly wound, intense pop songs Sandman preferred. The group has begun to build a cult following of its own, attracting Morphine and jam band enthusiasts alike. It is in the midst of releasing four two-CD live albums. The second of these, Chicago, IL 02.02.03, is a 92-minute sampling of Twinemen's interchangeable jamming -- Sargent sings one song, Conway sings the next while Sargent plays guitar, and so on. Ironically, though, the best tunes on the record are the four Morphine covers. Sargent, on "The Night" and "Cook for You," interprets Sandman's masculine melodies amazingly well.
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