Enzo's Jazz at The Jolly Hotel Madison Towers (22 East 38th Street at Madison Avenue) in the Whaler Bar off the Lobby in New York City is a new room for jazz, open only a few weeks. As Bill Moring stated at the end of the second set, "New York City is much different than when I started out twenty years ago, and needs more places like this." What he meant was that NYC needs more venues for jazz that are comfortable, relaxed, just the right size, friendly, not exhorbitant and which have an early show (7 PM) so that people who like live jazz but are not night owls can get home.
The event on Friday, November 4th was a CD release party for Way Out East
(Apria Records, 2005) by Bill Moring and his quartet. Having heard the album, I wanted to hear this bassist with the huge sound and intricate style. His bandmates, Jack Walrath (trumpet), Marc Mommaas (tenor saxophone) and Anthony Pinciotti (drums) were not what Moring called the "A" band, in that the recording had Tim Armacost on tenor and Steve Johns on drums. However, each of the players had played with Moring, but just not with each other and there was no evidence of any kind of confusion, just a bit more talking at the start of a tune.
Moring's arrangements manage to create a structure without suffocating individual freedom, and everyone picked them up easily. He encourages the non-soloing player to play under the other, creating a mini-big band sound of a section riffing behind the soloist. The overall sound thus created feels much bigger than a quartet.
Since Moring is the leader, his bass is amped so that he is heard up front and not just in a supporting role. He also has one of the tightest bass sounds I can rememberpitch perfect with a sharp attack that is the total opposite of flabby. He also had a C-extension on his lowest string, and kept adjusting its range. Moring can walk with the best of them, but his style is really about melodic accompaniment that provides counterpoint to the front line's soloing. Thus, when he solos, there is a bit more space and the lines are a bit more melodic, but it is just a matter of degree.
Walrath is a very funny guy, and his assured playing always had a touch of humor, plus his compositions that were played had a fine balance of memorable melody and brashness. Momaas picked up Walrath's vibe and added a bit of his own abandon, playing "out" quite a few times, pushing the band in a bit of a different direction. Pinciotti was unfazed by it all and was rock solid while being attentive. He erupted when given the chance and produced quite a sound on his smallish drum set.
The tunes were mostly originals from the album and stylistically varied quite a bit. Of particular interest to me, however, were the arrangements of "Days of Wine and Roses" and "Sweet and Lovely" that killed me on the album. The band reproduced them live and really perked up the audience when they finally caught on to what the tunes actually were. These performances proved that the recording was basically live and that the band's sound not enhanced in the studio.
All in all, the evening went by much too quickly since the music was so good, and no one wanted it to end.
Visit Bill Moring on the web.