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Grachan Moncur III: Evolution

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Grachan Moncur 111 Evolution Blue Note 2008

Originally released in 1963, Evolution was the leader debut of trombonist and composer Grachan Moncur III, who had previously worked with tenor saxophonist Benny Golson's Jazztet, and was the regular “cool" foil for brimming-hot Jackie McLean in the alto saxophonist's quintet. Moncur was characterized by critics of the day as a player with measured intellectual calm, in heady contrast to the slushy tailgate of Roswell Rudd. Moncur's phrasing is comparatively deft, a bugle-flick that's easily aligned with post-J.J. players like Curtis Fuller. It's probably no ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Grachan Moncur III: Exploration

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For as much as the post-Ornette lineage of jazz and improvised music has engendered instrumental freedom both sonically and rhythmically, this language has also given a wealthy palette to the composer. With the work of figures like Andrew Hill remaining in the spotlight and Grachan Moncur III's recent return from a lengthy hiatus, it is worth re-examining the idiomatic missing link that Moncur's work offers. As a soloist, Moncur is often seen as the “cooler alternative to Roswell Rudd's “hot tailgate in the lineage of vanguard trombonists of the '60s. Working in the groups of Jackie McLean and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Grachan Moncur III: Exploration

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By Ken Waxman

Grachan Moncur III had strong associations with the Jazztet, alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, and tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp. An East Coaster, he brought a variety of sophisticated colors to his compositions using different instrumentation than the standard sax/brass/rhythm section of the hard bop combo.

However, the trombonist has had a very low profile in recent years. Moncur recorded frequently in the '60s, including several sessions under his own name, but by steadfastly holding onto his publishing rights, he was soon estranged from the so-called jazz business. When the jazz recession hit, he concentrated on music education in ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Grachan Moncur III: Exploration

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Grachan Moncur III Exploration Capri Records 2004

Ralph Ellison once wrote a great essay in which he seemed to predict jazz's ultimate dependence on a music industry driven (and subsidized) by a star system. The irony, Ellison suggested, is that jazz is largely created by anonymous musicians, who because they are “devoted to an art which traditionally thrives on improvisation [...] very often have their most original ideas enter the public domain almost as rapidly as they are conceived to be quickly absorbed into the thought and technique of their fellows."

There is a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Grachan Moncur III Octet: Exploration

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It is a crying shame that some of the best jazz musicians have to languish in obscurity. There are many reasons, but a review is not necessarily the place to go into them. Suffice to say that it is a moment worth cherishing when a stalwart comes in from out of the beyond to make his presence felt.

Grachan Moncur III was a forward thinker who made some of the most powerful music of the sixties with compatriots like Jackie McLean, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Roscoe Mitchell and Dave Burrell. That trend continued into the next decade with ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Grachan Moncur III: Exploration

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Grachan Moncur III Octet Exploration Capri Records 2004

After a lengthy absence, trombonist/composer Grachan Moncur III returns with his first album as a leader since 1977's Shadows (Denon Jazz). The trombonist is best known for his particiation on two Jackie McLean albums, One Step Beyond and Destination Out! , in 1963. On the latter Moncur contributed two of the five tunes and on the former, three of four. In addition to appearing on numerous Blue Note dates as a sideman, Grachan Moncur III also recorded Evolution and Some Other Stuff for the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Grachan Moncur III Octet: Exploration

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"Frankenstein" seems an odd name for a jazz tune, but then why not? The song title--and the song itself--captures the mood of Grachan Moncur III's Exploration. It's an arrangement that features an assertive--to the point of brashness, perhaps--ensemble interplay of a seven horns backed by bass and drums, sans piano or guitar. Two trombones, along with a French horn and baritone sax, ensure the darker tone predominance with--on this particular tune--a stinging, free-ranging alto sax solo by Gary Bartz, followed by Moncur's contained and very centered solo turn on his horn.Grachan Moncur III's horn--for those of you who ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Grachan Moncur III Octet: Exploration

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Trombonist and composer Grachan Moncur III made a memorable impact forty years ago with his challenging compositions and austere improvising style. He then maintained a very low profile for decades, teaching, recording only rarely, and encountering dental problems. Now he's made a welcome return to recording with the absolutely stunning CD Exploration.

In the 1960's, Moncur's trombone style was notable for breaking away from the then-prevalent model of J.J. Johnson. Rather than play bebop acrobatics, Moncur played spare lines characterised by his use of space. He still plays that way, but he sounds more relaxed. He plays with ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Grachan Moncur III Octet: Exploration

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It's remarkable how time changes the relative position of musical innovation. When trombonist Grachan Moncur III appeared on the scene with a series of Blue Note appearances including his own Evolution and Some Other Stuff , as well as alto saxophonist Jackie McLean's One Step Beyond , Destination...Out! , Hipnosis and About Soul , thankfully reissued recently as a Mosaic Select box, he was firmly entrenched in the emergent musical left. While not exactly the kind of free style that artists including Ornette Coleman were pursuing--his music had too much inherent structure--Moncur's compositions demonstrated new ways to combine open-ended form ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Grachan Moncur III: Mosaic Select 1

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We take it for granted these days, with packages as large as 18 discs (the Bill Evans Verve box) or even 20 discs (the Complete Miles Davis at Montreux), but back about 20 years ago when Mosaic Records started looking at comprehensive reissues, such massive surveys were all but a pipe dream. For better or worse, a renaissance period of reissue activity, much of it modeled after Mosaic’s trend- setting program, has brought us to the point where the amount of material available for further unearthing is dwindling.

Still, there are nuggets of music from obscure artists that still warrant ...

INTERVIEWS

A Fireside Chat With Grachan Moncur III

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There are paths we take in life that are forever. Life is unforgiving and no one in jazz personifies that better than Grachan Moncur III. It took me over a year just to track down Grachan. And because of health issues, another year for him to sit down with the Roadshow. Allow me to be kind and rewind. I had heard Grachan on Blue Note recordings of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and most notably Jackie McLean. Grachan was a monster on the trombone and it puzzled me to no end why Alfred Lion, the Clive Davis of jazz, only recorded ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Grachan Moncur III: Evolution

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Evolution utilizes the excellent front line of Jackie McLean's working group of the early Sixties: McLean on alto sax, Moncur on trombone, and Bobby Hutcherson on vibes. Extra spice comes from the addition of trumpeter Lee Morgan, while Bob Cranshaw's bass and Tony Williams' drums represent a standard Blue Note “out" rhythm section of the time. Moncur wrote all four pieces, and throughout the whole album exercises admirable control of his all-star unit: this brilliant album is nobody's but his. The Moncur mood prevails from start to finish: his somber and profound compositions set the tone for some uncommonly subdued ...



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