Ras Moshe is a well known denizen of NYC's downtown scene, a beatific presence whose laid back deportment stands in stark contrast to the intensity of his musical delivery. A recognizable son of Coltrane in terms of harmonic dexterity, restless curiosity and soulful commitment, Moshe has nevertheless developed a light touch and bemused sense of humor uniquely his own. Despite his prolific concertizing, Moshe is relatively under-documented on recordings, a situation in the process of rectification thanks in part to Utech Records, a starkly packaged let-the-music-speak-for-itself indie label out of Milwaukee. Live Spirits, Vol. 3 & Vol. 4 capture Moshe and friends in the heat of the moment at The Stone, Downtown Music Gallery and Williamsburg's Lucky Cat Lounge.
On Vol. 3, Moshe is joined by saxophonist Joe Rigby, pianist Walden Wimberley, bassists Matt Heyner and Todd Nicholson and drummer Jackson Krall, all frequent collaborators and simpatico spirits, for an hour-plus exploration of timbre and temperament. Moshe and Rigby each take turns on tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, often doubling up simultaneously to create closely synced sonorities. Likewise, Heyner and Nicholson are the warp and weft of a low-frequency sound blanket, while Krall provides propulsion and immediacy. Basically an extended 'modal' treatment of D minor, the piece sustains listener interest through changes in instrument combinations and through motific development; Moshe is a master of moving melodic kernels through myriad permutations: parallel motion, dominant cycling, register displacement and whatnot. A reprise of the original theme initiates closure, followed by an outro vamp in (approximately) F minor.
Vol. 4 opens with three cuts from a Sunday afternoon at Bruce Gallanter's Downtown Music Gallery record shop, Moshe complemented here by vocalist Kyoko Kitamura, whose forward-looking digital processing effects, garbled scatting and vocal percussion, coupled with a melodic vocabulary grounded in swing and bop, provide a stimulating foil for Moshe's aspirated arpeggios and voice-like inflections. The final track, recorded at the 2005 Music Now Festival and featuring Krall back on drums and Francois Grillot on bass, has more notes and more edge, with Moshe overblowing in the altissimo register like a steamwhistle and laying down tensile lines over the rhythm section's 'up-swing' tempo.
Tracks and Personnel
Live Spirits Vol. 3
Tracks: Umkhonto We Sizwe (Spear Of The Nation) for John Coltrane & Tyrone Washington
Personnel: Ras Moshe: tenor, soprano & alto saxophones; Joe Rigby: tenor,alto & sopranino saxophones; Walden Wimberley: piano; Matt Heyner: bass; Todd Nicholson: bass; Jackson Krall: drums.
Live Spirits Vol. 4
Tracks: Breath of Life; Forward Mon!.
Personnel: Ras Moshe: tenor & alto sax; Francois Grillot: bass; Jackson Krall: drums; Kyoko Kitamura: voice.