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Live Spirits 1 & 2

Florence Wetzel By

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Don't let the simple packaging of Ras Moshe's new CDs fool you: Live Spirits No. 1 and Live Spirits No. 2 are rich with sound and spirit, an aural vision quest by one of the city's most important avant-garde saxophonists. Each CD consists of two long songs, giving the musicians ample space to build the music and follow where it leads them. Moshe's keen musical and spiritual intelligence is the guiding force throughout; his skills as a musician, composer and bandleader just keep getting stronger and Live Spirits is testament to his unfolding maturation.

The CDs are culled from live performances in 2003 and 2004, three in New York City and one at Syracuse University. All the musicians are part of Moshe's Music Now Unit, a roving family of musicians fiercely committed to improvisational magic. The first cut on No. 1, "Road: Medley," features Moshe with Matt Heyner on bass and Jackson Krall on drums. The tune evolves into a fascinating structure full of beautiful lines by Moshe and intimate conversation between the three musicians. The second cut, "Full Moon Night," finds Moshe with partner in crime Matt Lavelle on trumpet, Chris Forbes on electric piano, Ken Filiano and Francois Grillot on bass and Krall on drums. The song starts off at a slow boil then rises into primal dissonance, Moshe's sax and Lavelle's trumpet piercing through like human cries.

No. 2 starts with "Unnamed Peace," a haunting song featuring the unusual line up of Moshe, Todd Nicholson and Heyner on basses and vocals by Kyoko Kitamura. The song is a lovely contemplation of peace, with heartfelt scatting by Kitamura and Moshe's sensitive, thoughtful lines. The second cut, "Brooklyn Improv-Other," finds Moshe again with Heyner and Krall. The song is a feat of improvisational mastery, a three-way telepathic offering; it's pure energy music, fueled by Moshe's scorching sax.

Moshe is in the family of musicians for whom music is a spiritual quest. This is no hobby for him; it's a matter of utmost urgency, with each performance an opportunity to reach for the ungraspable.

Live Spirits No. 1

Personnel: Matt Heyner: bass; Jackson Krall: drums; Matt Lavelle: trumpet; Chris Forbes: electric piano; Ken Filiano, Francois Grillot: bass.

Live Spirits No. 2

Personnel: Todd Nicholson, Matt Heyner: basses; Kyoko Kitamura: vocals; Jackson Krall: drums.

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