Bob Moses: Nishoma
Like the late, great Connie Kay (of the Modern Jazz Quartet), Moses can conform his drumming so appropriately to the mood that sometimes one forgets that drums are even being beaten. That is the hallmark of a truly excellent ensemble drummer, someone who offers intense musicality and foundation but doesn’t feel a need to dominate the show. Forget the flash of Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa; Bob Moses is one of the certifiable greats of jazz drumming. His performances here illustrate a deep understanding of rhythmic functionality and coloration that’s too rare in today’s scene, where simply smashing the kit into submission seems the order of the day.
The band he assembled forNishomaincludes several unfamiliar performers, among them Guadeloupian saxophonist Jacques Schwartz Bart, Bulgarian trumpeter Rossen Zahariev, vocalist Luciana Souza and reedman Scott Robinson. As this disc will testify, all these folks are remarkably talented and will hopefully reap good benefits from their association with Moses. Bart’s resume includes service with trumpeter Roy Hargrove and drummers Cindy Blackman and Giovanni Hidalgo. Zahariev’s playing is melodic and clear, and it’s obvious that he’s well-versed in trumpet techniques from bebop onward. I especially enjoyed his dark blowing on the blues-drenched track #8. The hornmen’s tones are comfortably jazzy but not derivative, their sense of swing impeccable. Souza possesses a classically Brazilian voice, warm in timbre and wide of range. The god-daughter of saxophonist Hermeto Pascoal, she adds a toasty lightness to three tracks with her resonant wordless vocals. Robinson shines on track #10, taking a marvelous bass clarinet solo. He also plays the oddball waterphone on #3, his splashes and burbles forming wild textures behind the melody. One unusual addition to the band’s personnel is tap dancer Jimmy Slyde, who performs on two tracks. On #4 Moses pounds out loud, simple syncopations to support Slyde while Robinson’s smoky bass clarinet skulks in and out of the shadows. On track #9, a short visit with a Thelonious Monk favorite, Zahariev joins that trio. His jungle-plunger trumpet adds an old-timey jazz feel to inspire Slyde’s flights of fancy. It’s a neat textural concept that works beautifully but isn’t overdone.
The more familiar performers also excel on this disc. Pianist Steve Kuhn crafts a rich tapestry in his solo intro to track #2, one of Moses’ most beautiful compositions. Bassist Chris Wood utilizes his unfailing tastefulness to good advantage, complementing or balancing Moses’ drumming at every turn. His discerning palate doesn’t always get the best workout in the confines of Medeski, Martin and Wood, so I always enjoy the chance to hear his vibrant bass playing in a different setting. Singer Abbey Lincoln guests on the closing track, an Irving Berlin chestnut that’s nicely reworked into a moody, empyreal gem here. Lincoln’s gifts as a singer have been the subject of debate for decades; some listeners feel her duskiness and iffy intonation detract from the music, others think her style injects a refreshingly personal touch into songs. I tend to ride the fence between those two viewpoints, depending upon the setting she’s in, but I really enjoyed her jazzy performance here.
As a tribute to a parent who’s passed on,Nishomais understandably heavy on ballads and sentimental melodies. However, the material is well-chosen and masterfully arranged, which keeps it from bogging down into maudlin groaning. The upbeat opener and tap-dance features add a spirit of fun to the session, making this disc a celebration of all life has to offer while it lasts.Nishomais one of Moses’ best, most consistently enjoyable efforts, and that’s saying something for a talent this powerful.
Track Listing: Lagrimas de Alegria; Visit With the Great Spirit / El Visionario; Zawag; Caravan to the Stars; Moondew; Greta
Personnel: Bob Moses, drums and percussion; Rossen Zahariev, trumpet and flugelhorn; Jacques Schwartz Bart, tenor saxophone; Steve Kuhn, piano; Chris Wood, bass; Scott Robinson, bass clarinet and waterphone; Jimmy Slyde, tap dancing on #4 and #9; Luciana Souza, vocals on #1, 2 and 5; Abbey Lincoln, vocals on #11.
Record Label: Grapeshot Records