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Getting To Know Ras Moshe

Dom Minasi By

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RM. I didn't go to college for music. I played with African and Reggae drummers. I also played often with a group of Rastafarians called the Drums of Freedom Drum Troupe and ultimately I became a full time musician in 1987. I was based in Brooklyn and for the longest time I was just an audience member for a lot of the music "downtown." I realized eventually that it wouldn't make me less Black to play in places outside of the neighborhood. I really wanted to get out there and let the public hear what I had to say musically.

AAJ. Who were some of your early influences and why?

RM . Early influences! How much time do we have? That's the fun part about Jazz. Every innovator we like to listen to made their own contribution, but it would be John Coltrane. Early on I heard his sound quite often in the house as a youngster, but I think I also got into him and the rest of his music for my own reasons. He was an incredible player in every stage of his musical evolution.

Direct influences were Charles Lloyd Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Pharoah Sanders Cecil Taylor, Miles Davis, Rashied Ali Frank Wright, Archie Shepp, Tyrone Washington, Carlos Garnett, Azar Lawrence, Booker Little and Andrew Hill. Since I have gotten my own sound, I no longer emulate these great people, although I still love to listen to them. Cecil Taylor is also a huge influence. The construction of his musical lines is incredible and has had a direct bearing on how I play, but I feel I have my own sound.

ABJ. Why Free Jazz?

RM. I grew up listening to the masters of the so-called Avant-Garde and the main message I got from listening to them is that it came from study, regardless of the intensity and uncompromising nature of the music. I gravitated to "free" playing for a variety of reasons. The main reason being that it's a natural inclination. I heard Jazz in that particular form called "free" from my earliest years. As quiet as it was kept, many in the community were listening to it. I do view the totality of Jazz itself as Free, though, not just one part. I think we who play this music all have a calling as far as what part of the music we want to work with. The whole 'in' versus the 'out' thing is a false conflict. I am proud to be associated with the so-called Avant-Garde. It was and is what I naturally want to play. As I mentioned earlier, I knew from the beginning that the "free music" was serious business as well. Serious business with a strong message that's fun at the same time. If there ain't no fun involved, that's bad!

AAJ. So much of free music seems redundant. I mean you can hear the same musicians perform two nights in a row and it sounds the same. What are your thoughts on this statement?

RM. It depends on who it is. I guess we all develop a language after time. It is best to do different things with our language. At a certain point in the music, there were some who interjected the "free" language into other forms of music (funk, rock, soul etc.) that were more static. The early and more creative stages were known as "fusion," even though Jazz was always fusion music.

AAJ. What do you think is the future of free music? Will it sustain and will it ever be financially profitable?

RM. It will sustain and it is profitable! I think more of its participants need to be heard. Jazz in its totality will live on.

AAJ. Who are some of the players you have worked with now and previously?

RM.. Around 2000,I started playing with William Hooker and that's a lot of fun. I have done many projects with him. Each one is different. Drummer Marc Edwardsis another one. I always enjoyed his work with Cecil Taylor. I am a member of the Orchestras organized by Karl Berger and William Parker. It has been great and there's no end to the learning. These kinds of situations always improve your playing. Being a part of Bill Cole's Un-tempered Ensemble is a great experience. I came up listening to these people, Joe Daley and Rocker Warren Smith. Yes. Beautiful. I also recorded with Dom Minasi in a great large ensemble work called The Vampire's Revenge that was filled with some serious players.

AAJ. You said you became a full time musician in 1987. What did you do to make money?

RM. I worked in health food stores and record stores for years. Plus I took classes in College. I already knew how it was out there. I had no intention of becoming certain things that I saw happen with a lot of my favorite players. No judgments intended at all. Believe me my friends.

AAJ. Most free-form players have a hard time making a living. Are you able to support yourself now as a player?

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