Doug Mosher / John Estes: Southern Lights

Budd Kopman By

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Doug Mosher / John Estes: Southern Lights
It is almost certain that many readers of these pages have at one time or another been faced with a recording that you just did not like or could not get into. Now, life is short, and there is no dishonor in moving on to other things. However, perhaps this work was recommended or it had garnered good reviews by people whose knowledge and/or taste you have come to respect.

If that is the case, you might try to "get into" that which you initially rejected in order to try to hear what others had heard. Again, there is no dishonor, after this good faith attempt, to once again set it aside. However, there is the possibility that you can now hear something in the music which piques your interest. Jean-Michel Pilc wrote about this kind of thing in his wonderful book, It's About Music -The Art and Heart of Improvisation. Here is a (self-taught) musician who plays at the highest level saying that for the longest time he just could not get into the music of John Coltrane despite the opinions of numerous respected friends.

Faced with this seeming paradox, Pilc continued to listen to Coltrane, and, he says, finally "got it." What he means is that he got past his superficial impression of the music and heard Coltrane's intent, heard the "why" and "how" of his music, heard the emotional soul of the performer and that it now did (at least begin to) make sense.

Now, this is not to say that Southern Lights is of the same depth or intensity as Coltrane. However, there is no denying the honesty of saxophonist Doug Mosher and bassist Jon Estes. There is also no denying that the stylistic range of the fifteen tracks is narrow, but this is counterbalanced by this narrow range being deeply mined. There is also an argument to be made that making a record with such sparse resources and tight theme is a chancy thing.

There is a definite musical space that is created. Estes' playing, particularly the acoustic bass, is intricate and accompanies Mosher's airy lines very well. The feeling of American is very strong, and if big sky and red sunsets bring a tear to your eye, then the closing track, "#15" might be perfect.

Taken for what it is, rather than criticized for what it is not, Southern Lights might just surprise and grow on you, as it did this listener.

Track Listing

Southern Lights; Icicles; Ballerina; Afternoon; Local Wonders; Nebraska; Bag in the Wind; Pacheco Pass; Ives; Transcontinental; The Vacuum; Dharma; Abel Magwitch; Snowed In; #15.


Doug Mosher: tenor saxophone; John Estes: bass.

Album information

Title: Southern Lights | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Ear Up Records

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