Bill Moring: Way Out East (2005)

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Bill Moring: Way Out East
I wish this CD had more detailed liner notes on each of these players and a little history of the group. They're a really interesting band and frankly, I'd never heard of them before. Bill Moring and his cohorts seem completely at home in this "cordless" context and his rich, driving acoustic bass playing more than makes up for the lack of piano or guitar comping.

Drummer Steve Johns fleshes out the rhythm section with a time feeling that's very solid and assured. His fills are musical and never distracting, always serving the group, even when the soloists are at their most abstract. This is an extremely cohesive rhythm section and they lay down a groove that the horn men can really relax into.

The liner notes do make brief mention of trumpeter Walrath's having "'learned alongside the great Charles Mingus," and indeed his feeling for melody and his writing reflect Mingus' wonderful lyricism. Walrath has a kind of lean, icy tone. His phrasing is sharp and edgy. He doesn't "decorate" with notes. His lines are smart and to-the-point. He reminds me a bit of Roy Hargrove, although his tone is more brittle.

Reed man Tim Armacost's admiration of Sonny Rollins is hard to miss. His melody lines are always pushing the envelope but still accessible. His unison work with Walrath is flawless and the give-and-take between the two throughout has a wonderful, easygoing balance, despite the complexity of some of the tunes. And each player seems to feel comfortable commenting on his partner's solo at any given point, which adds to the spontaneity and freshness. And the fun.

With two exceptions, "The Days of Wine and Roses" and "Sweet and Lovely," the tunes are all originals. "Free Ditty," by Armacost, has a particularly "free" feeling and there's a lot of interesting interplay between the two hornmen. It's often hard to tell where the written parts end and the improvised parts start—a sure sign that each band member is on the same wavelength. At any given point, someone can take the tempo or the mood in a whole different direction, and everyone just falls into step effortlessly.

The head on "Sweet and Lovely" is played in a very traditional way with an almost Dixieland feeling. Walrath's trumpet maintains that easygoing, "lazy river" attitude with his most laid-back solo of the CD. Armacost plays soprano, and although he goes a bit further out then Walrath, the trumpeter inserts some clever structural ideas underneath his solo that keep tugging Armacost back to the melody. The tension is interesting, and Moring's big fat acoustic bass sound holds it all together.

Track Listing: Ornettology; The Days of Wine and Roses; Cave Canem; I Dont Know Yet; Spenta Mainyu; Rivers Edge; Free Ditty; Sweet and Lovely.

Personnel: Bill Moring, bass; Jack Walrath, trumpet; Tim Armacost, tenor; Steve Johns, drums

Record Label: Apria Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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