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Jemeel Moondoc Trio: Fire In The Valley

Derek Taylor By

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The primacy of live performance coupled with the reality that there just aren’t that many labels willing to front the bread for creative improvised music has led to a dearth of entries in Jemeel Moondoc’s discography. Studio dates for the saxophonist are a rarity and it’s for this reason that his pairing with Eremite makes so much sense and has proven so fruitful. Eremite’s most common medium is live performance and a large portion of the label’s catalog features music culled from the annual Fire In the Valley Festival. Likewise Moondoc is at his best in the throes of impromptu divination achievable in front of an appreciative audience. Taped direct to two-track six weeks after the session that marked Moondoc’s debut on the label this disc delivers a complete set by the trio replete with encore. A quick four-count by the leader that symbolically breaks the tethers and it’s time for a collective lift off. For the next three quarters of an hour all three players ride the crest of a spontaneously combusting gust of energy that makes the minutes melt away.

Cook and Voigt bustle back and forth between volcanic eruptions and quieter dispersions, and Moondoc’s sound is similarly varied between raw, raucous honks and elongated, emotionally charged lines. Cook works his cymbals and snare like pinball flippers continually buffeting a gleaming percussive ball into innumerable rhythmic nooks and crannies and racking up copious points along the way. Voigt’s method is more manic as he juggles bow and fingers in a continuous rough caress of his strings. His solo near the ten-minute mark makes the fingers ache just thinking about the tensile strength required to pluck such incessantly demanding patterns. For his part Moondoc dances a woolly jig atop the variegated rhythmic verdure liberally adding splashes of his own melodic paint to the collective canvas. At one point saxophone and stringently sawed bass meet in an acrimonious embrace upended by Moondoc’s vocal cries. At another a viscous bass pulse oozes beneath Moondoc’s sprightly upper-register musings and Cook offers terse stick-driven commentary in response. This is a trio so multifaceted in their approach that the possibility of boredom is summarily abolished as soon they raise their instruments. Doubt the veracity of such a claim? Just take a listen. The clamorous ninety-second encore is the proverbial maraschino on top.

Those souls fortunate enough to witness this concert came away with an earful. Thanks to the diligent efforts of Eremite the day lives on and can be marveled at by an audience of global proportions. Here’s hoping that ever widening numbers of these world citizens acquire an awareness of the pearls awaiting them in the translucent depths of this music and decide to take the plunge.

Tracks:Fire In the Valley/ Encore.

Players:Jemeel Moondoc- alto saxophone; Laurence Cook- percussion; John Voigt- bass.

Recorded: July 27, 1996, Amherst, MA.

Eremite on the web: http://www.eremite.com


Title: Fire In The Valley | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Eremite Records

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