Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

196

Mo'Fone: Surf's Up

By

Sign in to view read count
Picking over my review of my first encounter with Mo'Fone way back in 2002, I come across this bone-grating comparison: "I mistook one piece as a cover of 'Pick Up the Pieces' without all that Average White Band aftertaste." I'm compelled to apologize to Mo'Fone for this mistake because, in hindsight, I see it's so patronizing. Last year's release of Surf's Up proves this jazz trio is a powerhouse to be reckoned with. These ten tracks are fresh and relevant and outrageously great.

As noted previously, the most conspicuous features of this band are its exclusions. Although lacking a pianist and a bassist, Mo'Fone's high-octane funk-drenched sound challenges the listener at every step; this is not a CD to fall asleep to.

The group's theme song, a cover of John Scofield's "Kool," offers some particulars as explanation. After an exchange of soft brass, the trio announces the rhythmic bridge in unison followed by an introduction of the melody. Larry De La Cruz works the upper registers on the alto sax while Jim Peterson blows a staccato bass line with a baritone sax; he's so succinct that a bassist would only be redundant. Jeremy Steinkoler keeps everything flowing smoothly with solid trap work. The brass is brassy, the percussion crisp, and the exchange of solos that follows maintains constant interest.

With such a small group, it's expected that the funky groove of "Kool" would be lost when one member goes off to solo, but everyone stays inside supporting the soloist with unobtrusive call-and-responses. Steinkoler demonstrates the most restrained drum solo in recent memory by simply playing through while the other two take a brief breather. It's muscular music with a sense of humor and some wit.

While most tracks off Surf's Up echo the boisterous energy of "Kool," Mo'Fone reveals a more serious side in David Murray's "Flowers for Albert" and "Mera Dil Yeh Pukare/Man Dole Mera," the latter a cover from the soundtrack of a Bengali film. The group achieves an Eastern sound by droning the horns while Steinkoler subtly slaps the drums with his hands to mimic a tabla. Danny Bittker is brought in for additional sax work on these two tracks and he slides in without a hitch. This material also indicates the wide spectrum the group draws upon for inspiration and direction. It's not surprising to see Billy Cobham and Joe Zawinul covered here, but Mo'Fone's arrangements are never slavish to an original.



Surf's Up stands as an impressive debut as well as a significant demonstration of jazz's (and fusion's) possibilities. Finally, a cerebral band with guts enough to take big risks. If Mo'Fone doesn't blow your socks off, you're not paying attention.


Track Listing: Black Market, Crosswind, Flowers for Albert, On Call, Kool, Mera Dil Yeh Pukare / Man Dole Mera, Big Chief, View of the Valley, Surf's Up, African Market

Personnel: Larry De La Cruz: baritone saxophone, alto saxophone, clarinet, flute, percussion / Jim Peterson: alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, percussion / Jeremy Steinkoler: drums & percussion / Danny Bittker: bass saxophone, tenor saxophone

Title: Surf's Up | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Evander Music


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Baby It's Cold Outside CD/LP/Track Review Baby It's Cold Outside
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Wrong Turns And Dead Ends CD/LP/Track Review Wrong Turns And Dead Ends
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Lavaman CD/LP/Track Review Lavaman
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 21 CD/LP/Track Review Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 21
by Don Phipps
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Bad Hombre CD/LP/Track Review Bad Hombre
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Aladdin's Dream CD/LP/Track Review Aladdin's Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "New Angle" CD/LP/Track Review New Angle
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 13, 2017
Read "Saluting Sgt. Pepper" CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 22, 2017
Read "Radio Luboyna" CD/LP/Track Review Radio Luboyna
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: April 9, 2017
Read "Najwa" CD/LP/Track Review Najwa
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 30, 2017
Read "I Try To Remember Where I Come From" CD/LP/Track Review I Try To Remember Where I Come From
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 30, 2017
Read "Days Are Not Days" CD/LP/Track Review Days Are Not Days
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 20, 2016

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!