Jewels and Binoculars, the collaboration between Michael Vatcher (drums, percussion), Lindsey Horner (bass) and Michael Moore (alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, melodica), delves into the Bob Dylan songbook for its third album, the Upshot Records release Ships with Tattooed Sails.
Dylan is not a stranger to them. They have been exploring his music since the 1990s, finding their inspiration in the images conjured by his words while taking flight from the roots of folk music to shape a whole new dimension.
Melody is key to their structure, but they bring in a lot more through the reinvention of the harmony and in the extension of the textures. Bill Frisell, who plays guitar on three of the tunes, helps open the progression with his distinct touch.
The group juxtaposes its approach in fine detail. It can open a melody, exposing its depth and beauty, or use it on the fly and find a direction of its own. In either case, the trio makes a potent statement.
"I Believe in You is majestic. Moore indulges in the melody, soaking in its sweetness and letting it fall gently in a warm clasp. Horner ruminates on the theme and Vatcher adds a modulated beat. Moore goes on to the alto from the clarinet, and in doing so injects edgy trajectories to bring in another side of passion.
Moore swings on the supple lines laid by Vatcher and Horner on "Cold Irons Bound. Dylan's composition takes a new tangent, one that becomes the innovative motivation of the group. As the rhythm men come upfront to converse, Moore takes up the melodica and moves into the spaces with quietude. The emphasis has changed; the impact stays.
"Blind Willie McTell churns myriad colors. The approach is free and open, with Frisell dropping notes between Moore's darting lines. The playing becomes modulated when Frisell settles into the melody. Moore heads into the forefront, changing the face of the tune, but never straying from the center. And when it becomes more of a collective effort, motored by the crisp beat of Vatcher's drums and Horner's improvised turn of phrase, the result is spellbinding.
If You See Her, Say Hello; Blind Willie McTell; Father of Night; I Believe In You; Cold Irons Bound; It
Michael Vatcher: drums, percussion; Lindsey Horner: bass; Michael Moore: alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, melodica; Bill Frisell: guitar (2, 6, 9).