Trombonist and composer Kendall Moore's debut, Focus
, exhibits remarkable maturity and an exquisite harmonic sense. The six originals are intricately constructed and orchestrated in intriguing patterns. Each one is imbued with an individualized mood and varying degrees of dramatic tension.
The cinematic "Fellowship" opens with pianist Angelo Versace
's sparse haunting keystrokes. The ensemble's languid, long lines unfurl with nocturnesque flair ushering in bassist Gary Thomas
' lithe, lyrical solo. The stimulating tightly interwoven reverberations give way to Moore's erudite, spontaneous monologue that meanders intelligently around the main theme in innovative trails. The duet between Moore's buttery trombone and guitarist Tim Jago
's blistering strums closes the piece with a bluesy passion.
The hard driving "Resilience" features delightfully energetic, collective vamps against which guest saxophonist Pat Seymour
's acerbic alto echoes. Moore takes his turn in the spotlight with his blustery yet tender improvisation leading the way to Versace's rapid-fire clusters of notes. Drummer Michael Piolet
's restless rumble bursts to the surface with a thunderous, unbridled yet quite elegant polyrhythms that makes for a breathtaking conclusion.
Meanwhile, "Peaceful" is a lilting, almost symphonic ballad that is filled with subtle melancholy. Moore's darkly hued, mellow yet muscular horn engages saxophonist Mark Small
's silken phrases, Thomas' resonant strings and Versace's shimmering sonic cascade in a pensive and poetic conversation as Piolet's kit and cymbals shudder under the sticks and brushes.
In contrast the brightly colored "Road Less Traveled" showcases guest trumpeter Marquis Hill
's soaring, burnished tone over loosely swinging rhythms. Hill's brilliant extemporization dovetails into Moore's reserved yet ebullient growl as the latter paints vibrant, ad-lib musical imagery.
Moore is not a slouch when it comes to arranging either the record opens and ends with standards. Moore's interpretation underscores trumpeter Miles Davis
and pianist Bill Evans
' classic "Blue in Green"'s modal sound. The track opens with Piolet and Jago's hypnotic refrains. Moore's complex, heady trombone takes center-stage with an air of mystique. Elsewhere the band eloquently and respectfully deconstructs composer Jimmy Van Heusen's "It Could Happen To You." Moore's performance bristles with spirited gusto as Thomas spices up the tune with crisp and clever whimsy.
Moore has started his professional life with a bang. His Focus
is uniformly superb, quite imaginative and captivates with its sophisticated charm. Hopefully it is only the first installment in a long and fruitful recording career.
Blue In Green; Focus; Peaceful; Road Less Traveled; Fellowship; Finding Purpose;
Resillience; It Could Happen To You.
Kendall Moore: trombone; Mark Small: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Tim Jago:
guitar; Angelo Versace: piano; Gary Thomas: bass; Michael Piolet: drums; Marquis Hill:
trumpet (4, 6-7); Pat Seymour: alto saxophone (4, 6-7).