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Bill Moring and Way Out East in Teaneck, NJ

David A. Orthmann By

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Bill Moring and Way Out East
The Puffin Cultural Forum
Teaneck, New Jersey

September 13, 2008

In the midst of the fourth and final selection of a fifty-minute set, Bill Moring and Way Out East transformed what had been an interesting performance to something extraordinary. The magic occurred during a lengthy series of exchanges between tenor saxophonist Tim Armacost and trumpeter Jack Walrath on the latter's composition, "Balls of Everything." At the onset of the witty jousting of the two horns, the rhythm section—Moring's bass along with the piano of Steve Allee and drums of Steve Johns—tightened up and, with no appreciable increase in volume, became a vigorously swinging unit. As Armacost and Walrath moved from eight to four to two-bar trades, keenly nipping at each other's lines, the thickening textures of the sound became as much as the room could contain.

During the course of the set Armacost's solos said a lot in a relatively short amount of time. He fused various elements and made rapid, substantial changes in a manner that sounded logical and temperate. His solo on "Hop Blues" (a tune that evoked soul-jazz, Middle Eastern music, and '50s rock 'n roll) served up brisk rhyming couplets, a long convoluted run, and several trips into the horn's upper register. By contrast, a voyage through Moring's "A Space In Time" sounded somber from note one, as Armacost held something in reserve, moving slowly and in no apparent design before suddenly taking flight via long strings of notes and deliberate, soulful phrases.

As a means of explaining the inspiration for "Balls of Everything" Walrath offered a colorful plot summary of the 1983 science fiction film, Brainstorm. Throughout the set, the trumpeter's forte was rummaging through a huge bag of tricks and putting things together in ways that somehow made sense. A lengthy garbled chain in the middle of "A Space In Time" sounded like someone being strangled. Long settled tones quickly became more pointed. An extended flowing progression degenerated into short pithy phrases. A protracted whispering interlude on "Hop Blues" was followed by loud cackles. Jagged high notes were repeated and abandoned in favor of thoughtful, evenly executed runs. Lines twisted, turned, and then suddenly flattened out.

Allee was particularly good at goosing Walwath during the trumpeter's solo on Moring's "Mary Lynn." On "Hop Blues" the pianist began his improvisation with a number of roughhewn phrases. A couple of hard chords inspired Johns' snapping hits to the snare drum, a chordal interlude threatening to move outside of the tune's parameters before the percussionist reined it in by way of single notes only slightly less tumultuous.

The rich weighty sound of Moring's bass was a fount of stability. He nailed down the bottom and supported the soloists without any extraneous movement. As Moring and Johns maintained a solid groove, the leader's plainspoken "Hop Blues" solo was both soulful and substantive. Johns began a thematic "Balls of Everything" solo by way of thunderous tom-toms and tricky, chattering snare figures. Jittery Latin-oriented rhythms swung mightily. And while a simple, repetitive bass drum chant served as an anchor, the snare sounded out with gritty, crackling taps. Rapid-fire tom-tom hits competed with brisk cymbal splashes before Moring reentered, joining the drummer in leading the band back to the head.

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