Cape May, New Jersey is a very interesting place in that it is both a Jersey shore vacation destination and a town with a year-round population. On the National Historic Registry because of the quantity of existing Victorian homes, Cape May is home to many artists, and the biannual Cape May Jazz Festival
Guitarist Herb Moore is part of the low-key jazz scene that is always present in Cape May and is a local favorite. Playing under less than ideal conditions, since there is no real dedicated jazz club, Moore, his long-time partner, bassist Terry Dougherty and, for the last few seasons, vocalist Rachel Husta have been a bright spot in the town. Circle Of Friends
is a well-executed, very attractive recording of what Moore does all year. With guest musicians, pianist Barry Miles
, guitarist Brian Betz
(another local favorite) and drummer Harry Himles, Moore brings his effortless virtuosity to bear on many standards in varying configurations.
Moore is a deceptive player in that what he does is accomplished with extreme ease and economy of motion. He uses the pick-finger technique so smoothly that when he simultaneously accompanies himself by playing a counter line or answering phrase in a different register, it sounds so natural as to seem commonplace. Without getting into value judgments, comparing Moore with Betz, who is a more straight-ahead player, is quite instructive.
What one ends up hearing is real mastery, with no pyrotechnics that would draw attention to technique. Moore has a fully formed style that is quite recognizable beyond the flange or phasing that he adds to his guitar sound, and which is ideal for playing in a duo or vocalist trio. In hotter settings, however, he can rip it with the best.
Moore is a complete musician, having studied with Dennis Sandole
, who famously taught the young John Coltrane. A few years ago, Moore brought Husta into his group, dropping the drummer to keep it as a trio. The difference between the vocalist's technique and assurance then and now is astounding, and a tribute to Moore. Listening to Husta perform "East of the Sun," "Good Morning Heartache" and "S'Wonderful," one hears a smooth silky, sexy voice with a firm bottom and controlled vibrato, which is an attractive package. That she had to choose family over musicians' hours is a disappointment. Circle Of Friends
is a fine record and demonstrates the quality of musicianship that exists but gets little fanfare.
Personnel: Herb Moore: guitar; Terry Daugherty: bass; Rachel Husta: vocals; Barry Miles: piano; Brian Betz: guitar; Harry Himles: drums.