10

Getting To Know Ras Moshe

Dom Minasi By

Sign in to view read count
Art and Jazz especially can only benefit society. —Ras Moshe
Ras Moshe is not a name most people are familiar with. If you listen to straight ahead jazz you probably wouldn't know Ras. Now if you go to some of the 'downtown' performances in New York City and Brooklyn you probably have seen him play. I heard him ten years ago playing Tenor Sax at the Sunday Night Avant Series hosted by Dee Pop at the now defunct CBGB'S. I listened very intensely because many feel free form players are not real players or musicians. Based on what I've heard and seen, some of those opinions are true, but there are a host of improvisers that are above the cut and Ras is definitely one of them.

From the very beginning I could hear a history in his playing. He was 37 years old then and I said to myself, "this guy can play, and if he keeps on growing he will be an absolute monster." I am here to tell you he is. He is studied and disciplined, with a gentle soul and a quiet demeanor. He has a great smile and a heart of gold. His quiet demeanor is misleading because when he plays, he explodes with excitement. That is why in 2006 I asked him if he would play Alto Sax on my The Vampire's Revenge CD. When we were about to record the title tune where Ras is the first soloist I said to him, "Ras, this is why you are here. Play and don't hold back and play as much as you want." His solo was everything you would expect from a player of his caliber, as were all the musicians on that date.

This is my first interview for All About Jazz. Up to now I've been writing articles. I've decided that once in a while it would be good to 'change it up' and so I have.

Let me introduce you to Ras Moshe.

AAJ. You were born March 22 1968 with the name Theodore Burnett III. When did you become Ras Moshe and why?

RM. My grandfather's name was Theodore Burnett the 1st. My dad was the 2nd. I'm the 3rd. My Grandfather came here from Jamaica in the 1930's and played Alto and Tenor and recorded with many big bands too.

I received the name Moshe due to a religious conversion in the family when I was about ten. The Ethiopian name Ras came when I got deeper into Rastafarian culture. It's a practice of using the prefix "Ras" before various names. It also means "child of the sun" which is what I prefer. Ras Moshe is like a stage name, but I am the same person.

AAJ. You studied with your father. Did you study with anyone else?

RM . I also studied with my Grandfather. Both he and my father were strict with the lessons, but in a loving way. I was also part of the Heritage Symphony Orchestra, a youth Orchestra that had classes in Pratt Institute. We played a repertoire of Classical music written by Black Composers. I was 13 or 14.

AAJ. What was your attraction to Jazz when other kids your age were listening to Pop, Soul, R&R and Reggae?

RM . I heard Jazz a lot in the house. My father was a serious fan as well as a great Alto player. Also, parallel to that, I got into music for my own reasons too. For me it is a spiritual and social calling. My maternal Grandfather didn't play music like my father, but he listened to music a lot. Growing up around Jazz in that time period was not as uncommon as it got to be later on. When I was growing up, all the music aside from Jazz was innovative as well, regardless of genre, so I listened primarily to Jazz. I grew up with Reggae as well and I played both. Things started to change for me in the late 70's/early 80's.

ABJ. How did things change in the late 70's/80's?

RM . Things changed because the music in the neighborhood got more generic. The messages weren't very good and it seemed like it was an intentional thing. This particular critique is not because it was "popular" but because of the content. Also actual instruments, unlike the pop music, were more and more through time not making that music earlier on.

AAJ. When you started playing jazz, did you play the standard jazz repertoire?

RM. There was the standard jazz repertoire in my formative years, via the school band from the 5th grade throughout High School. Some of the songs we all know and love.

AAJ. Did you study harmony and theory? If so, where or with whom?

RM . I learned Harmony and Theory in the school bands I played in. My High School the teacher always let us practice even if it wasn't time for class. He showed us a lot. I also took some classes with Jazz Mobile, which brought me closer to jazz.

AAJ. Are you comfortable playing on chord changes?

RM. I am comfortable playing on chord changes. I think that is a natural conception of my playing even when I'm not using composition.

AAJ. Did you go to college or did you become a professional musician after High School?

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Craig Taborn and his multiple motion Interview Craig Taborn and his multiple motion
by Giuseppe Segala
Published: August 7, 2017
Read Richie Cole: Blue Collar Bebopper Interview Richie Cole: Blue Collar Bebopper
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: August 1, 2017
Read Charles Lloyd: The Winds Of Grace Interview Charles Lloyd: The Winds Of Grace
by Ian Patterson
Published: July 14, 2017
Read Randy Weston: Music of The Earth Interview Randy Weston: Music of The Earth
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Nicole Johänntgen: Henry And The Free Bird Interview Nicole Johänntgen: Henry And The Free Bird
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 27, 2017
Read "Ashley Kahn: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece" Interview Ashley Kahn: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece
by Lazaro Vega
Published: November 30, 2016
Read "Generation Next: Four Voices From Seattle" Interview Generation Next: Four Voices From Seattle
by Paul Rauch
Published: June 19, 2017
Read "Samantha Boshnack: A Musical World Without Boundaries" Interview Samantha Boshnack: A Musical World Without Boundaries
by Paul Rauch
Published: November 17, 2016
Read "Matthew Shipp: Let's Do Lunch!" Interview Matthew Shipp: Let's Do Lunch!
by Yuko Otomo
Published: January 16, 2017
Read "Tony Monaco: Taking Jazz Organ to the Summit" Interview Tony Monaco: Taking Jazz Organ to the Summit
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: August 31, 2016

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.