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Jemeel Moondoc

A powerful and vastly underrated avant-garde alto saxophonist, Jemeel Moondoc blended the free-form melodic thought of Ornette Coleman and the sharp edge of Jackie McLean or Charles Tyler with the sort of ferocious "energy playing" usually reserved for tenorists.

Moondoc began playing piano as a child, studied clarinet and flute, and settled on alto around age 16; he subsequently studied with Cecil Taylor at various colleges in the early '70s. In 1972, he moved to New York, where he formed Ensemble Muntu with trumpeter Roy Campbell, bassist William Parker, and drummer Rashid Baker. The group recorded for its own Muntu label in the late '70s, and Moondoc also led solo sessions for labels like Soul Note and Cadence through the early '80s.

However, financial difficulties forced Moondoc to break up his large ensemble (the Jus Grew Orchestra) and essentially retire from music for over a decade, working as an architect's assistant. Moondoc's career was revived in the mid-'90s when the Eremite label coaxed him into signing a deal that allowed tremendous creative leeway.

In 1996, Moondoc recorded his first albums in 11 years: the studio trio date Tri-P-Let and the live Fire in the Valley (performed at the festival of the same name). 1998 brought New World Pygmies, a duo with William Parker from that year's Fire in the Valley.

Next, Moondoc revived his Jus Grew Orchestra as a ten-piece and performed a set of Massachusetts concerts documented on 2001's Spirit House. Also released that year was Revolt of the Negro Lawn Jockeys, a quintet performance from the 2000 Vision Festival that was acclaimed as perhaps his finest album to date, and whose instrumentation evoked Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch. Source: Steve Huey

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Album Review

Steve Swell's Fire Into The Music: For Jemeel: Fire From The Road

Read "For Jemeel: Fire From The Road" reviewed by Alberto Bazzurro


Oltre tre ore di musica catturate in altrettante esibizioni live fra Texas (due, ottobre 2004) e Canada (la restante, settembre 2005) e oggi rese opportunamente disponibili sono ciò che ci offre questo triplo album composito ma per altri versi assolutamente monolitico. Lo firma un superquartetto, sempre quello, che attraversa i sette ampi brani (il primo occupa l'intero primo cd) con fare deciso, ottima capacità di gestire l'evolversi della musica prodotta, i suoi spazi intestini, felicemente bilanciati fra parti corali e ...

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Album Review

Steve Swell’s Fire Into Music: For Jemeel: Fire From The Road

Read "For Jemeel: Fire From The Road" reviewed by Mark Corroto


If listeners only had the one recording, Swimming In A Galaxy Of Goodwill And Sorrow (Rogueart, 2007) from Steve Swell's Fire Into Music, and did not have the pleasure of hearing the quartet live in person, there certainly would be a large blank spot in their metaphorical dance card. The trombonist Swell, bassist William Parker, and drummer Hamid Drake must also mourn the loss of the fourth member of the quartet, alto saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc (1946-2021). Much like Ornette Coleman, ...

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Album Review

Steve Swell: Astonishments

Read "Astonishments" reviewed by John Pietaro


Among the trombonists of New York's downtown scene, or uptown for that matter, no one even comes close to Steve Swell. His level of artistry, ability to create within any sonic cloud, compositional strengths and sheer fortitude set a new standard decades ago. Deemed a veteran of the new music that tore up the 1970s and '80s, Swell has, too, been a tireless voice within new millennial jazz and free circles. The music industry has never acknowledged the music of ...

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Album Review

Jemeel Moondoc Quartet: The Astral Revelations

Read "The Astral Revelations" reviewed by John Sharpe


On The Astral Revelations alto saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc breathes new vitality into the legacy of the loft jazz era where he first made his name. It's a reputation most forcefully burnished in retrospect by the sumptuous box set Muntu Recordings (No Business, 2010), which showcases Moondoc alongside such future luminaries as bassist William Parker and the late trumpeter Roy Campbell. After a hiatus in terms of recording in the early noughties, he's become active once again, resulting ...

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Extended Analysis

Jemeel Moondoc: Muntu Recordings

Read "Jemeel Moondoc: Muntu Recordings" reviewed by John Sharpe


Jemeel Moondoc Muntu Recordings NoBusiness Records 2010

Lithuanian based NoBusiness records has put together a wonderful retrospective on under celebrated saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc and his pioneering ensemble Muntu, sumptuously packaged in a three-audio disc plus booklet box set. It's a bulletin from another era, the late 1970s, a fertile period in free jazz history which has been sparsely documented. The set goes some way to redressing that imbalance, with the 114 page ...

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Album Review

Jemeel Moondoc and Denis Charles: We Don't

Read "We Don't" reviewed by Clifford Allen


The duo recording is one of the most open windows available into the nature of improvisation; its give and take or “discussive" aspects are often made very clear by two players involved in musical conversation. And nowhere are melody and rhythm so tightly balanced as they often are in a saxophone-and-drums duo. Coltrane’s last and finest flights were with Rashied Ali on Interstellar Space ; Ali and tenorist Frank Lowe met a few years later to record the blistering classic ...

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Album Review

Jemeel Moondoc Vtet: Revolt of the Negro Lawn Jockeys

Read "Revolt of the Negro Lawn Jockeys" reviewed by Micah Holmquist


Maybe I am wrong about this, but it seems to me that in recent years an increasingly large number of horn players -including the likes of Nick Bisesi, Rob Blakeslee, and Joe McPhee- have begun to make music similar to that found on the early recordings of Ornette Coleman. Given that over the past 40 or so years Coleman's advances in the realm freedom have been far more influential than his aesthetic conceptions, this is a welcome development and far ...

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Collin Sherman
saxophone, alto

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Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Astonishments

Rogue Art
2020

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Yellow Back Radio...

Relative Pitch Records
2013

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Two

Relative Pitch Records
2012

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Jemeel Moondoc: Muntu...

NoBusiness Records
2010

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Videos

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