Michael Moore: Sweet Ears, Holocene & Fragile

Kurt Gottschalk By

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The Persons
Sweet Ears

Michael Moore Trio

Michael Moore

As a member of Amsterdam's venerable ICP Orchestra, saxophonist Michael Moore's musicianship and playfulness can be assumed, a part of the raconteur spirit that unites the members of Misha Mengelberg's ensemble. Outside the ICP, Moore is involved in a number of projects, as diverse as they are satisfyingly, realized. From the Bob Dylan interpretations of Jewels & Binoculars to the offbeat Available Jelly and his longstanding Clusone Trio with Han Bennink and Ernst Reijiseger, Moore's wide-ranging interests never lack a sense of full commitment to the project.

Even considering his Dylan interpretations with Lindsey Horner and Michael Vatcher, The Persons is as close as Moore has come on record to a rock band. Which is not to say that's what they are; the septet plays long, horn-dominated instrumentals. But the presence of two electric guitars and Vatcher's sometimes-heavy drums makes them the hardest driving of Moore's bands, and a new recording under the name is a welcome surprise, coming some 15 years after their last. The under-acknowledged Franky Douglas was a selling point for the earlier records, but he's ably replaced here by guitarists Danny Petrow and Nick Kirgo, who amplify (literally) the moves from delicate moments to clean spitfire to heavy attack, and the new interpretation of the old tune and Clusone staple "Love Henry" is an added happy surprise.

Moore seems to enjoy three-piece settings. Along with Clusone and Jewels & Binoculars, Moore has released two records (on his Ramboy label) with Fred Hersch and Mark Helias, and now premieres a great triad with Guy Klusevcek and Erik Friedlander. The title, Holocene, comes from the Greek word meaning "entirely new," but as Moore explains in the brief liner notes refers here to the holocene epoch, the geological period between the last ice age and the current day. It's a lot of temporal ground to cover, but the 13 tunes here, all composed by Moore, are sweepingly romantic. The rich, wet midrange of clarinet, accordion and cello can't help but evoke rainy afternoons and red-wine dinners, melancholy and nostalgia, and Moore is deft enough to hide his sentiments inside the music, rather than smearing them across its face. Moments of abstraction are mirrored by segments of sheer loveliness.

The heart lands closer to the sleeve on Fragile, an unexpectedly sweet quartet/quintet session which could pass for mainstream were that not a dismissive term. Moore's dedications on the 16 tracks here include one for "a caring person and a true patriot," poets Li Po and Gary Snyder, his mother and a friend's cat. In other hands, the pieces could be forgettable; it's the band's that makes the record. They manage to be soft-yet-strong, especially in Vatcher's light, pronounced drumming and the forceful reeds of Moore and Ab Baars. As ever in the greater ICP family, it's less about what they play than how they play it.

Tracks and Personnel

Sweet Ears

Vicky/Sweet Ears; Sluggo; Humoroso; Ishi/Let 'em ring; Brunheiras / Hinde-wu/ RAM; Love Henry

Personnel: Michael Moore: alto saxophone; clarinet; bass clarinet; melodica; Ernst Rejiseger: cello; Danny Petrow and Nick Kirgo: guitars; James "Sprokcet" Royer: bass; Michael Vatcher: drums


Tracks: The thaw; To and fro; Well on ou way; Jodi Jones; Dark christians; Gilgamesh (for Piotr Michalowski and Deanna Relyea; Killjoy; Discrepancy; Fata Morgana; Trouble house; Unity; Woodcut

Personnel: Michael Moore: reeds; Buy Klusevcek: accordion; Erik Friedlander: cello


Tracks: Paint as you like; Miss Yosemite; Yahoo day; Fragile; Bagdad; Families can be so mean; Mudgekin; Old grey Stella; The troubadors; Sanctuary; A friend stays the night; How small birds flit; Ringtail; Asian pear; The snell of Novato; Upside-down man

Personnel: Michael Moore: reeds; Harmen Fraanje: piano; Clemens van der Veen: bass; Michael Vatcher: drums; Ab Baars: clarinet (on 3 and 11)

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