Jameel Moondoc Quartet

The Astral Revelations
RogueArt ROG 0081

One of the second generation of American Free Jazz practitioners following game changers like Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman, alto saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc has spent too much time over the past quarter century away from the spotlight. Yet this live performance of four originals backed by his usual quartet demonstrates the 67-year-old has lost none of his fire or creativity. Chicago-born, New York-based Moondoc, whose affiliations have included the Jus’ Grew orchestra and smaller bands with William Parker, Roy Campbell and others, is backed by bassist Hillard Greene, who has worked with Taylor and Jimmy Scott;, drummer Newman Taylor Baker, who has worked with choreographers and Henry Threadgill; and pianist Matthew Shipp, who has worked with just about everybody.

During this Amsterdam-recorded program, the quartet shows its mastery of simple, bedrock blues as well as more experimental material. “Blues for Katie” is instructive, for between the opening drum press roll and double bass string thunks a groove is established, with Shipp stomping in his best Ray Bryant-like manner as jagged, dyspeptic runs pour from Moondoc, leading to a slashing exposition that replicates Blues tonality with a sophisticated veneer.

Instructively extended tracks such as “Cosmic Nickelodeon” and “Here Now, Gone Now” not only judder with irregular phrasing and sudden interjections from all concerned, but subtly underline the idea that yesterday’s avant gardists also celebrate Jazz continuum. Shipp’s solo strategy on the latter for instance move from Monkishly narrow and embellished multi-notes to replicate Sride, mated with tap-dance emulations from Baker, as the saxophonist’s sharp squeaks and slurs fill any gaps. Meanwhile the introductory “Cosmic Nickelodeon” allows each player enough space for expressive moves. Leading from the drummer’s smashing double ruffs and the bassist’s calming bowing to the pianist’s sudden kinetics and the saxophonist’s sharpened phrases, a multiphonic crescendo is reached and then downshifted with sophisticated keyboard rebounds, Moondoc’s emotionalism is expressed on “Ornette Good Bye,” the threnody that wraps up the disc. Crucially though his elongated yearning cries are coupled with what sounds like Baker rhythmically playing spoons. Coupling this nod to tradition with an unexpected fillip of the future confirms the continued relevance of under-celebrated players like Moondoc.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Cosmic Nickelodeon 2. Blues for Katie 3. Here Now, Gone Now 4. Ornette Gone Bye

Personnel: Jemeel Moondoc (alto saxophone); Matthew Shipp (piano); Hilliard Greene (bass) and Newman Taylor Baker (drums)