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Jemeel Moondoc/ William Parker: New World Pygmies

Derek Taylor By

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Over the years Jemeel Moondoc has suffered from the myopic vision of certain critics who have referred to his saxophone technique with such misplaced adjectives as “primitive” and “odd ball.” Other shortsighted souls have focused their squinted gaze on his flamboyant fashion sense and summarily assumed that his music must be clownish or comedic in nature. There is definitely a raw edge and a healthy humor to Moondoc’s sound, but these are only facets of a far more expansive whole. This disc, like those that have preceded it in Moondoc’s still modest portfolio, once again sets the record straight for those willing to listen and reveals the broadness of his musical brush. But rather than coasting on a formulaic presentation Moondoc instead boldly breaks new bread by teaming up with Parker in a stripped down setting and in the process delivers arguably his most complete and cogently stated opus to date.

Neither man is a novice when it comes to the other’s music. Moondoc and Parker have teamed up on numerous occasions since the mid-70s (check Parker’s Through Acceptance of the Mystery Peace also on Eremite for one of their earliest collaborations). In front of the fortunate audience at 1998’s Fire In the Valley Festival their familiarity rises immediately to the fore as both men jettison the fetters of decorum and play off each other with a visceral zeal. A further element, which adds immeasurably to the listening experience is the clarity of sound achieved by engineer Alen Hadzi-Stefanov. I’ve personally never heard Parker’s sound rendered so exquisitely on a recording as it is here. Every nuance of his febrile strings is captured in ear-arresting detail and Moondoc’s horn is afforded equally lavish treatment.

On “New World Pygmies” dense thickets of palpitating rhythmic umbrage sprout from Parker’s bass creating the sonic illusion of verdant jungle landscapes as Moondoc’s spiraling sax etches cloud-like curlicues above. With “Little Huey Sees A Rainbow” the pair refracts a melodic motif through the lens of their instruments into innumerable rays of shimmering chromatic light. The thundering bass-driven march of “Theme For Pelikan” is another iridescent animal and finds both players molting musical skins in rapid telegraphic sequence. Again the separation and clarity of the instruments is stunning. Mercurial bow and scurrying reed commune throughout “Not Quite Ready For Prime Time,” a performance that despite the title’s contention could easily surpass much of what passes for prime time fare these days. Moondoc’s Ayleresque moan on “Another Angel Goes Home” weaves with Parker’s ferrous arco lines and takes things out on a somber, but emotively charged note to the eventual eruption of unanimous applause. The “Encore” is a perfect aural aperitif touching on facets of the preceding material, but also moving forward into undiscovered tastes and sounds. Those who know the music of Moondoc and Parker can already guess at the essential nature of this recording. To those who do not and the significance of the date cannot be overstated. All’s that’s left to do is to log onto Eremite’s site or hurry down to your local record shop and secure yourself a copy!

Tracks:New World Pygmies/ Huey Sees a Rainbow/ Theme For Pelikan/ Not Quite Ready For Prime Time/ Another Angel Goes Home/ Encore.

Players:Jemeel Moondoc- alto saxophone; William Parker- double bass.

Recorded: July 27, 198, Amherst, MA.

Eremite on the web: http://www.eremite.com

Title: New World Pygmies | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Eremite Records

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