November 6, 2020
Michael Moore Fragile Quartet
By Ken Waxman
A slight misnomer, multi-reedist Michael Moore’s quartet is only partially fragile. In fact an alternate title could be Two Sides of Michael Moore. For while a good portion of the CD’s 14 tracks float in a ethereal, echoing Cool Jazz mists, a few are healthy and rhythmic. Moore, a Californian who has lived in Amsterdam since the early 1980s, is a member of the ICP Orchestra and other bands as well as leading his own ensembles. The drum chair here is filled by another Yank expat, Swiss-based Gerry Hemingway, who is constantly busy with groups on both sides of the Atlantic. The other Fragiles are Dutch: bassist Clemens van der Feen, who works with both notated music and jazz groups; and pianist Harmen Fraanje, who is part of several other groups on his own.
With Fraanje playing a more nuanced Dave Brubeck to Moore’s Paul Desmond, tracks such as “Euginia Uniflora”, “A Little Box of Jazz” and “Klee”, swing like the best Brubeck quartet tracks but without self-conscious time signature experimentation. The first, a Brazilian waltz, rests on hard drum smacks as sweeping keyboard glissandi and melodic puffs from Moore’s clarinet harmonize. The most groove-oriented of the set, the second finds Moore circling the melody with flutter tonguing as drum bops and piano patterns shake beside him; while “Klee” is the most outside performance, eventually adding tougher drum rumbles to unaccompanied clarinet twills and twitters that initially expressed a fast-paced theme
For the remainder of the tracks, moderation is the key, with frequent resonating themes and sequences keeping expositions firmly in the balladic mode. With its subtle double bass focus, “Doldrums” for instance could have wandered off a Nordic Jazz session as van der Feen’s slippery strokes presage Hemingway’s mallet pops and follow seeping clarinet trills. Concentrated and expansive “The Meliae” decorates its narrative with the musical equivalent of pastel colors via a dry piano melody. Furthermore “Fenix Blue”, which is anything but a blues, manages to combine languid reed slurs and keyboard sprinkles with a mid-section of Hemingway clips and ruffs, culminating in a narrative that rainbow-like manages to express the colors of many pitches and tones.
While tracks are grouped into two Cretan Dialogues, the overall effect is more correctly a four-way dialogue where each player is given an equal opportunity to contribute to this high quality program.
Track Listing: 1. Lolapalooza 2. Fenix Blue 3. The Meliae 4. Europa 5. Doldrums 6. Leaving Paleochora 7. Euginia Uniflora 8. Pussy Willow 9. Content (For Saul Leiter) 10. Faint of Heart 11. A Little Box of Jazz 12. Klee 13. Rola-Turca 14. Slowly Slowly
Personnel: Michael Moore (alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet and melodic); Harmen Fraanje (piano); Clemens van der Feen (bass) and Gerry Hemingway (drums and percussion)