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Jemeel Moondoc Quartet: The Astral Revelations

John Sharpe By

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On The Astral Revelations alto saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc breathes new vitality into the legacy of the loft jazz era where he first made his name. It's a reputation most forcefully burnished in retrospect by the sumptuous box set Muntu Recordings (No Business, 2010), which showcases Moondoc alongside such future luminaries as bassist William Parker and the late trumpeter Roy Campbell.

After a hiatus in terms of recording in the early noughties, he's become active once again, resulting in a sequence of albums on the NYC Relative Pitch imprint, culminating in the excellent Zookeeper's House (2014). One of the surprises then was the appearance of pre-eminent piano improviser Matthew Shipp as a sideman on two tracks. That quartet with Shipp toured Europe in 2016 and this disc presents them in full flow from the Bimhuis in Amsterdam.

Moondoc's characteristic combination of astringent blues-drenched tone and post-Ayler wail, interspersed with vocal asides, remains one of the most distinctive sounds in modern jazz. Add to that Shipp's singular style amalgamating insistent motifs, melodic shards, thunderous crashes and cleanly articulated sparkling lines, and you have something very special.

Shipp has extensively partnered Brazilian saxophonist Ivo Perelman, driving his collaborator to ever greater heights, and he likewise brings out the best in Moondoc too. That's evident straight from the off in "Cosmic Nickelodeon," as Shipp obliquely accompanies the altoist's short pithy phrases with an inspired and edgy commentary.

"Blues For Katie," a Moondoc staple, hews closer to form, beginning with an earthy pizzicato riff from bassist Hilliard Greene which anchors the leader's incantatory storytelling. But even here, Shipp expands and contracts the time, paced by the tumbling cadences of Newman Taylor Baker, who currently holds down the drum chair in the pianist's trio. That strong connection is apparent also in the stomping undercurrent which surfaces in "Here Now, Gone Now," where the choppy unmoored interplay continues even as Moondoc playfully reiterates thematic fragments.

But they leave the best till last, with "Ornette Gone By" another in the ongoing series of gorgeous Moondoc dirges, where he wrings every last drop of emotion from the heart rending melody. For those who haven't caught up with Moondoc before, this is the place to start.

Track Listing: Cosmic Nickelodeon; Blues For Katie; Here Now, Gone Now; Ornette Gone By.

Personnel: Jemeel Moondoc: alto saxophone; Matthew Shipp: piano; Hilliard Greene: double bass; Newman Taylor Baker: drums.

Title: The Astral Revelations | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Rogue Art

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