Bob Moses recorded his debut album, Love Animal, in 1967-68 at the age of 19. But he never released it, he tells us in his informative and often amusing liner notes, "for reasons I don't remember." After all these years, the master drummer/percussionist has decided to unveil his earliest work as a leader on Amulet Records, which is run by Moses' disciple and kindred spirit Billy Martin (aka "illy B"). And so Love Animal takes its place alongside Moses' avant-garde epic Bittersuite in the Ozone as part of Amulet's Mozown Series, named for a label that Moses launched decades ago. (The Mozown Series also includes Moses' collaborations with Tisziji Muñoz [ Love Everlasting ] and Billy Martin [ Drummingbirds ].)
Love Animal is a fun but jarring study in contrasts, from out jazz to full-bore psychedelic rock and blues to solo percussion to standards. We hear a young Keith Jarrett, still in his Charles Lloyd period, playing beautifully on "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," guided by the hearty tenor sax of Jim Pepper. On "The Worms Crawl In Blues," the track immediately preceding the jazz ballad, we hear Larry Coryell cranked to eleven, wailing like a hybrid of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page (and also weighing in with a throaty rock vocal). Steve Swallow plays acoustic and electric bass, except on "Rock Fantasy," a Coryell/Moses duet featuring the former on bass as well as overdubbed guitars.
The album begins with "Wholy Moses," a gritty piece of abstraction that arrives at a hard, medium swing tempo toward the end. Jarrett plays soprano sax on this track and on Michael Gibbs' rubato sketch "Nowhere," presaging the multi-instrumentalism he would soon explore with his American quartet. Moses drums alone, and astoundingly well, on the three-and-a-half-minute "Ntumba's Raindance," lays down the groove on the aptly titled "Slum Funk," and winds down with the corkscrew unison lines and out-swing of "Dancing Bears."
For the personnel alone, Love Animal is a fascinating piece of modern jazz history. While some tracks stand up better than others, the album captures a very particular pre-fusion moment and helps to fill out our understanding of the music's evolution.
1. Wholy Moses (Moses) - 4:12
2. The Worms Crawl in Blues (Coryell) - 6:58
3. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Harbach/Kern) - 6:51
4. Ntumba's Raindance (Moses) - 3:35
5. Rock Fantasy (Coryell/Moses) - 6:56
6. Nowhere (Gibbs) - 3:32
7. Slum Funk (Moses) - 4:34
8. Dancing Bears (Moses) - 4:06
Larry Coryell - bass, guitar, vocals;
Keith Jarrett - electric piano;
Bob Moses - drums;
Jim Pepper - tenor sax;
Steve Swallow - electric and acoustic bass.