Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

179

Grachan Moncur III Octet: Exploration

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
"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 didn't catch him on Jackie McLean's Destination Out or One Step Beyond, or on any of his own bygone Blue Note sets—is the trombone. His is a distinctive voice: tight, terse, incisive (you won't hear a wasted note from him), and within the roiling arrangements he seems to slide into an eye-of-the-storm mode, like a measured voice of reason in the center of slightly neurotic gales.

Mark Masters of the American Jazz Institute arranged these tunes and conducts the octet—actually a nonet when you count Moncur. He proves himself yet again—as he did on One Day With Lee (Lee Konitz) and The Clifford Brown Project, both on Capri Records—a masterful enabler/interpreter. He captures the essence of the musicians in the middle of his projects, with, in this case, arrangements full of coiled intensity and sharp angles and gleaming edges, reminiscent of some of the Melba Liston charts done for Randy Weston's larger ensemble discs.

Moncur's songs are quirky in a Monk-ish sense, counterpointing harmony versus discord, restraint versus freedom, and the set is packed with searing solos alongside very measured and deliberate turns. Exploration makes up a consistently surprising set of sounds. I'll pick "Love and Hate" as a highlight, but it's probably just my precarious preference for a ballad today—any tune here on any given day could fill that bill. But the tune in question has a marvelously tight and taciturn Moncur solo that sneaks in and out some clean mainstream harmony, followed by Billy Harper—tenor sax—soaring on his horn.

Grachan Moncur III has been out of the limelight for a couple of decades. Exploration is a fine and fitting welcome back.

Track Listing: Exploration; Monk in Wonderland; Love and Hate; New Africa: Queen Tamam, New Africa, Black Call, Ethiopian Market; When? Frankenstein; Excursion; Sonny's Back!

Personnel: Tim Hagans (trumpet), John Clark (French horn), Dave Woodley (trombone), Gary Bartz (alto saxophone), Billy Harper (tenor saxophone), Gary Smulyan (baritone saxophone), Ray Drummond (bass), Andrew Cyrille (drums), Grachan Moncur III (trombone)

Title: Exploration | Year Released: 2004


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Bricks CD/LP/Track Review Bricks
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 17, 2017
Read Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns CD/LP/Track Review Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Song of No Regrets CD/LP/Track Review Song of No Regrets
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Sounding Tears CD/LP/Track Review Sounding Tears
by John Sharpe
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Lighthouse CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Kill The Boy CD/LP/Track Review Kill The Boy
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 16, 2017
Read "Molto Bene" CD/LP/Track Review Molto Bene
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Aspiration" CD/LP/Track Review Aspiration
by Karl Ackermann
Published: September 5, 2017
Read "Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32" CD/LP/Track Review Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32
by Don Phipps
Published: December 13, 2017
Read "Mikrojazz!: Neue Expressionistische Musik" CD/LP/Track Review Mikrojazz!: Neue Expressionistische Musik
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 5, 2017
Read "Welcome to Swingsville!" CD/LP/Track Review Welcome to Swingsville!
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 26, 2017
Read "Songs Without Words" CD/LP/Track Review Songs Without Words
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 3, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!