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A musician who has been sadly absent from the current jazz scene, tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore took part in the '80s revival of hard bop while fashioning one of the most recognizable sounds around. After he made his debut recording for the Reservoir label, Moore would go on to record a pair of albums each for Criss Cross Jazz and Landmark. Then following one more effort for Savoy Jazz, Moore would fall silent for a lengthy spell that has yet to see his return to recording activity.
The albums Images and Furthermore, done for Orrin Keepnews on Landmark , have been tied up in limbo since the demise of the small label. Now, 32 Jazz has re-packaged both releases on a 2-CD set that fittingly restores the best of Moore's work from the '80s and early '90s. Images was cut in 1988 and features a cast of youngsters that would go on to establish their own creative identities, including trumpeter Terence Blanchard, pianist Benny Green and rhythm mates Peter and Kenny Washington. The program is wisely chosen, with such hip Blue Note classics as Hank Mobley's "This I Dig of You" and Joe Henderson's "Punjab" indicative of Moore's tastes and influences. The extraordinary modern composer Donald Brown is also represented with a smoldering version of his "Episode From a Village Dance." Moore's own way with a tune is evident with "Freeway," the prickly opening gambit that puts everyone in a good mood.
Cut two years later and putting Ray Hargrove in the trumpeter's seat, along with the substitution of drummer Victor Lewis on a few cuts, Furthermore picks up where Images left off with additional top-notch work on a program that is comprised of more original material than on the previous outing. Opening once again with a bang, Moore's "Hopscotch" is one of those singable lines that stay with you long after the last notes have faded. Benny Green's "Phoebe's Samba" is another choice tune, with a propulsive Latin groove that drummer Lewis capitalizes on most proficiently during his extended solo. And for sheer beauty, Hargrove's "Into Dawn" is one of the trumpeter's most memorable compositions, with a melody and structure worthy of becoming a modern-day standard.
It should go without saying that all the participants involved here have something important to say, yet a closer look at Moore is required. While clearly inspired by John Coltrane, Moore possesses a round and burnished sound that sets him apart from his contemporaries. In addition, his improvisations have a patient and logical development that make them instantly attractive and understandable by even the most novice of listeners. It is all these qualities that make his recent scarceness all the more frustrating. Hopefully, the reissue of these significant early landmarks (pun intended) will bring him a new audience and a renewed career.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.