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Saturday, November 3, 2018

Jemeel Moondoc Quartet - The Astral Revelations (RogueArt, 2018) ****

By Stef Gijssels

Getting a new Jemeel Moondoc album is always a treat, and this one is no different. A quartet this time, with Moondoc on alto, Matthew Shipp on piano, Hilliard Greene on bass, and Newman Taylor Baker on drums, offering us a performance given at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam in 2016. Moondoc, a Chicagoan by birth, has very much been part of the New York jazz scene, and his role in the early days of 70s loft jazz are still very present in the sound of his art today. His career has known a lot of ups and downs, luckily not musically, and he seems to be back now, with strong records released in the past few years, without having lost any of the creativity and soul of the early years.

The opening track gives a long improvisation on a Moondoc composition, "Cosmic Nicoledeon", that also figured on his duo album with Greene two years ago. The addition of piano - and then especially Shipp - gives the sound an additional level of warmth and cohesion, and Baker, whose boppish drumming gets some solo space halfway the improvisation, is solid throughout.

"Blues For Katie" is a wonderful bluesy tune we know from "Intrepid Live In Poland", and from his New World Pygmies album with William Parker ... and it is great. It offers everything the tune has to deliver, deep soulful resonance, a bluesy boppish theme, a mid-tempo rhythm, and then space for each musician to go for it, but especially with a rhythm section that is at the full service of the altoist to demonstrate his lyrical mastership. The four musicians seem to enjoy this deep trip into their musical roots, fully confident of every chord and beat ... a home game, so to speak.

The two other pieces are new compositions. "Here Now, Gone Now" is angular and more exploratory than the previous two tracks, with all four musicians improvising together instead of directly supporting the soloist. "Ornette Gone Bye" starts with a solo alto improvisation that evolves into a beautiful theme, that indeed could have been penned by Ornette Coleman, and all four musicians develop it majestically, slowly, expanding it, freeing it, without losing the overall coherence for one single note. And it must be said, all four musicians are superb.

Warmth and openness are the key ingredients of this music, inviting listeners in without any degree of shock or alienation, giving them a common platform of familiarity to explore its boundaries, but without overdoing it.

Great stuff ... again.

  1. Jemeel Moondoc & Muntu - Live At Ali's Alley (Muntu, 1975)
  2. Jemeel Moondoc & Ensemble Muntu - First Feeding - (Muntu Records, 1977)
  3. Jemeel Moondoc & Muntu - The Evening Of The Blue Men ‎- (Muntu Records, 1979)
  4. Jemeel Moondoc & Muntu - The Intrepid Live In Poland ‎- (PolJazz, 1981)
  5. Jemeel Moondoc & Muntu - New York Live ! ‎(Cadence Jazz Records, 1981)
  6. Jemeel Moondoc Trio - Judy's Bounce (Soul Note,  1982)
  7. Jemeel Moondoc - Quartet Muntu - The Athens Concert  (Praxis,1982)
  8. Jemeel Moondoc Sextet - Konstanze's Delight - (Soul Note,  1983)
  9. Jemeel Moondoc Quartet - Live at Medford, MA (bootleg, 1985)
  10. Jemeel Moondoc Quintet - Nostalgia In Times Square (Soul Note 1986)
  11. Jemeel Moondoc & William Parker - New World Pygmies ‎(Eremite Records 1999)
  12. Various Artists - In Free Fall - A Tribute To Kostas Yiannoulopoulos (Praxis Records, 1999)
  13. Jemeel Moondoc & The Jus Grew Orchestra - Spirit House (Eremite Records 2000)
  14. Jemeel Moondoc Trio - Fire In The Valley (Eremite, 1997)
  15. Jemeel Moondoc Vtet - Revolt Of The Negro Lawn Jockeys  (Eremite Records  2000)
  16. Jemeel Moondoc & William Parker With Hamid Drake - New World Pygmies Vol. 2 ‎ (Eremite Records 2001)
  17. Jemeel Moondoc Trio - Tri-p-let (Eremite, 1996)
  18. The Jemeel Moondoc All-Stars - Live In Paris ‎ (Cadence Jazz Records 2002)
  19. Jemeel Moondoc Trio - Live At The Glenn Miller Café Vol 1 ‎(Ayler Records 2002)
  20. Jemeel Moondoc Tentet - Jus Grew Orchestra: Live At The Vision Festival ‎(Ayler Records 2003)
  21. Jemeel Moondoc With Denis Charles - We Don't ‎(Eremite Records 2003 )
  22. Jemeel Moondoc - Muntu Recordings ‎ (NoBusiness Records  2009)
  23. Jemeel Moondoc & Michael Hafftka - Yellow Back Radio Break Down (Six Gallery Press, 2010)
  24. Jemeel Moondoc & Connie Crothers - Two (Relative Pitch, 2012)
  25. Jemeel Moondoc - The Zookeeper's House ‎(Relative Pitch Records 2014 )
  26. Jemeel Moondoc & Hilliard Greene - Cosmic Nickelodeon (Relative Pitch, 2016)
  27. Jemeel Mondoc Quartet - The Astral Revelations ‎ (RogueArt 2018)

Watch a performance of the same quartet  in at Klaviersalon Merta, Linz, Austria, 2016: