Saxophonist Ras Moshe is on the forefront of musicians keeping avant-garde jazz urgent and vital. Moshe comes blessed with a jazz pedigree: his grandfather played with Lucky Millinder, Earl Bostic, Ella Fitzgerald, and many others, and his father worked with Carlos Garnett, Stanley Cowell, and other musicians in the new music scene in Brooklyn. As a result Moshe is well versed in jazz’s past, but he uses his knowledge to envision the future. And he’s bringing as many musicians with him as he can: Moshe is founder of Music Now!, a roving festival that regularly produces some of New York City’s most exciting concerts. Into the Openess
features Moshe and the Music Now Unit, the cream of the festival’s considerable talent: trumpeter Matt Lavelle, bassists Matt Heyner and Todd Nicholson, drummer Jackson Krall, and guitarist Tor Snyder. All four compositions are by Moshe, and all testify to his powerful playing and musical craftmanship. Lavelle plays on the first three songs, and it’s a pleasure to hear such simpatico musicians. The trumpet and saxophone have been a classic pairing for most of jazz’s history, and Moshe and Lavelle provide a contemporary version as they incite each other through the songs. They’re supported by the talented Todd Nicholson, who demonstrates impressive drive, as well as Jackson Krall, who plays with strength, agility, and unfaltering excellence.
The last song, “Journey Through the Cosmic Blue Night Forest Parts 1-5,” deserves special mention. Moshe, Snyder, Heyner, and Krall take the music way out, mixing in everything from electronica to Jimi Hendrix to a barking dog. The piece dives right into interstellar space, taking the listener on a journey that explores freedom, the spiritual life, and any and all ideas about music. As Moshe states in the liner notes, “We make art out of everything.”
The recording delivers what the title promises: it opens the listener’s heart and ears, and it does so with some of the freshest sounds available on CD. Moshe, who is in his mid-30s, gets stronger with each passing year. His convictions and talent are on a firm footing, but he’s always ready to take off for sounds unknown. All of this bodes well for jazz’s future, a future which most definitely includes Music Now! and Ras Moshe.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York