Rob Mosher's Storytime: The Tortoise (2008)
The Tortoise is the debut of Canadian-born, New York-based multi-instrumentalist Rob Mosher's ensemble Storytime. The album's twelve tracks encapsulate a wealth of influences, which span everything from jubilant early jazz styles and rich classical forms to harmonically intricate post-bop and edgy free improvisation. A far more nuanced hybrid than the early experiments of the Third Stream movement, Mosher's efforts combine the pastoral impressionism of Claude Debussy and the lush orchestrations of Gil Evans with the stark modernism of Wayne Shorter and the folksy mischievousness of Kurt Weill.
A self-taught composer and compelling tunesmith, Mosher pens memorable melodies underpinned by sophisticated structures that offer ample room for thematic exploration. Lavish arrangements with intricate, multi-layered counterpoint and shifting dynamics form the basis of Mosher's expansive writing. Over the course of these tonally diverse works, serene and cinematic atmospheres share equal space with jovial workouts and dramatically expressionistic fare.
Shifting through a series of stylistic changes and moods, "On a Clear Day" and "The Forgotten" drift along rich beds of subtle interactivity as plangent fragments rise and subside through the miasma. Revealing a playful side, the ensemble invokes the zany cartoonish antics of Raymond Scott on "What Snowflakes Are Plotting" and "1920's Car Chase." Conversely, "Sleepless Lullaby" and "Twilight" are virtually operatic; grandiose mini-symphonies in all but name, the later piece unfolds like a mini-concerto for Nir Felder's plaintive electric guitar.
Eschewing the spotlight, Mosher assumes a magnanimous leadership role; his lyrical solos are seamlessly integrated into the ensemble as one of many threads in a rich mosaic. The ten piece electro-acoustic ensemble offers a multiplicity of textural possibilities, from Felder's scrawling electric guitar to euphonious brass and a diverse array of sinuous reeds. Collectively, their statements are pliant, adventurous and harmonically resonant. Highlights are numerous, but Felder's kaleidoscopic electric guitar offers an especially distinctive color to the acoustic ensemble.
A gorgeously melodic album filled with cantilevered layers of sonic detail, The Tortoise is one of the year's most impressive debuts. In league with contemporaries like Brian Blade, Ron Miles and Rob Reddy, Mosher (along with his Canadian peers Michael Bates and Quinsin Nachoff) demonstrates great future potential as a bandleader and composer of merit.
Track Listing: On a Clear Day; The Sands of Maundune; Sleepless Lullaby; Jupiter; What Snowflakes Are Plotting; Twilight; Silhouette of the Man in the Fog; The Tall Tales of Todd Toven; March of the Elephants; Joy; The Forgotten; 1920's Car Chase; Farewell, Goodbye.
Personnel: Rob Mosher: soprano saxophone, oboe, English horn; Sam Sadigursky: flute, piccolo, clarinet, alto saxophone; Peter Hess: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Brian Landrus: bass clarinet, baritone saxophone; Micah Killion: trumpet, flugelhorn; Rachel Drehmann: French horn; Michael Fahie: trombone; Nir Felder: acoustic and electric guitar; Garth Stevenson: acoustic bass; Ziv Ravitz: drums and percussion.