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Moppa Elliott: Still, Up In The Air

Karl Ackermann By

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The founder and bassist of Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Matthew "Moppa" Elliott, has kept his own solos to a minimum on MOPDtK recordings, giving the spotlight over to trumpeter Peter Evans, saxophonist Jon Irabagon and now pianist Ron Stabinsky. However, his very recent participation as one of the Big Five Chord quintet, on guitarist Jon Lundbom's Make Magic Happen (Hot Cup Records, 2016) featured an eye-opening solo on Ornette Coleman's "Law Years." That performance made for a perfect teaser for Elliott's new solo bass album, Still, Up In The Air.

Elliott grew up on piano, and then trombone, before switching to the bass and earning his degree from Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He moved to New York City in 2001, broadening his musical landscape while sharing his knowledge as a high school teacher on Long Island. The founder of Hot Cup Records, Elliott released his first album, Pinpoint, that same year (with Evans on board). Something of a restrained forerunner of MOPDtK, that early release effectively demonstrated Elliott's skills as both a musician and a composer.

Still, Up In The Air builds on Elliott's experiences across improvisation, orchestral music and solo performances. His approach does not follow a straight line but produces mutually exclusive ideas that alter the viewpoint without attempting to tell a complete story. Counter to the approach, Elliott titles his compositions as "sequences" but then, not necessarily in chronological order. Beginning with "Sequence Three," a repetitive plucking morphs briefly into a bumping blues and then a separate and distinct propulsive bass line. "Sequence Eight," with extended arco techniques and percussive effects, moves between structure and improvisation.

To be clear, Still, Up In The Air is not a clinical exercise. There are dominant themes, or at least moods, such as the bounciness of "Sequence Nine" or the darker, sometimes eerier tones of "Sequence Fourteen." Elliott incorporates fragments of melodies along with his experimentation; his articulation is clear, whether playing loose or taut, and the production is free of embellishments. This is not the type of music that lends itself to written description; it needs to be heard to be appreciated. It is accessible, even when Elliott's conceptualizations seem to be surreptitious. Still, Up In The Air has a significant presence in the solo bass category.

Track Listing: Sequence Three; Sequence Eight; Sequence Nine; Sequence Ten; Sequence Eleven; Sequence Six/Twelve; Sequence Fourteen.

Personnel: Moppa Elliott: bass.

Title: Still, Up In The Air | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Hot Cup Records

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