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Michael Moss - Accidental Orchestra: Helix

Glenn Astarita By

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Veteran New York City-based free jazz acolyte, multi-instrumentalist Michael Moss (Sam Rivers, Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner) maximizes the talents of his large ensemble via these simmering works designed with organized and loosely articulated dialogues.

The ensemble kicks it off with the swirling and glaring "Inception," which is also tinted with a world music vibe due to revered tabla artist Badal Roy who offsets the flow during the bridge, leading to undulating horns and a loose groove free bop vamp. For the most part, the band paints a frantic scenario amid winding strings, budding arrangements and regimented choruses that morph into the hornists' ferocious soloing activities.

"Gabbala" is sketched with flourishing melodic content and trumpeter Waldron Mahdi Ricks' towering lines, paralleled with swelling world music overtones. However, Moss' diverse compositional frameworks yield an entertaining aura. For example, on "Bardo Thodol," linear movements are contrasted by Elliot Levin's searching flute patterns, tempered by calming strings that project a chamber-like subplot, followed by a soothing horn arrangement. However, the ensemble switches gears toward the coda with roughhousing tactics and pianist Steve Cohn's free-form excursions.

The final track "See Sharp Or Be Flat/C# Or Bb," reverts to a more conventional setting, as the band gels to a bluesy medium-tempo swing vamp, awash with intense soloing sprees by estimable violinist Jason Kao Hwang and others. In addition, vibraphonist Warren Smith adds color and tenderness to this somewhat weighty swing fest, tinted with an in-your-face type impetus. In sum, Moss' astute penchant for melding the outside parameters of jazz with imaginative compositions and a wide-ranging improvisational platform delivers the knockout punch.

Track Listing: Inception; Bridge; Qabbala; Bardo Thodol; The Mind Of God; See Sharp Or Be Flat/C# Or Bb.

Personnel: Jason Kao Hwang: violin; Rosi Hertlein: violin; Fung Chern Hwei: violin; Stephanie Griffin: viola; Lenny Mims: cello; Carol Buck: cello; Steve Swell: trombone; Vincent Chancey: French horn; Waldron Mahdi Ricks: trumpet; Richard Keene: oboe; Elliott Levin: flute, tenor saxophone; Ras Moshe Burnett: soprano and tenor saxophones; Michael Lytle: bass clarinet; Michael Moss: Bb clarinet; Steve Cohn: piano; Billy Stein: guitar; Rick Iannacone: ambient guitar; Larry Roland: string bass; Warren Smith: percussion, vibraphones; Badal Roy: table; Chuck Fertal: drums; Michael Wimberly: djembe, African bells and percussion.

Title: Helix | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: 4th Stream Records

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