Whereas many of Chicago's jazz and blues guitar icons seem to channel the dark alleys and the bar sign neon of the city through their instruments, John Moulder's sound is more akin to a synthesis of the lakefronta beauty and serenity that is just as likely to show a face of fury and cold precision. For some time now, Moulder has quietly been developing his sound into something quite unique. The Eleventh Hour provides the opportunity to hear it in a live setting.
Recorded at the celebrated jazz venue, Chicago's Green Mill, Moulder presents a set of tunes culled from past albums. But while past studio albums like Bifrost (Origin, 2009) and Trinity (Origin, 2006) were laced with atmospheric effects, it's a thrilling experience to hear the blistering heat and cool grace of his guitar undiluted by studio mechanics and effects.
For this show, Moulder leads a quintet of pros that includes saxophonist/bass clarinetist Geof Bradfield and past Pat Metheny Group alum, drummer Paul Wertico. The five of 'em sound like they've been performing together since they were wee tots. No better proof of that can be found than on the album's closing track, "Time Being," where a hypnotic opening of circular interplay between Molder and pianist Jim Trompeter leads to a series of solos that build atop one another, peaking with a surge of electricity that explodes with the final notes. It's one of those rare occurrences that a song is truly deserving of the descriptor "magical."
For a live recording, the audio quality is rock solid. When the inevitable sounds of the venue do hit the audio, they serve to enhance the listening experience rather than detract from it. Live, the heart of Moulder's sound beats large, and he brings the show straight to the speakers of anyone who listens, as if seated in a booth at the Mill the night it all went down.
Proclamation of the Unexpected; African Sunset; Cold Sea Triptych (Introduction); Cold Sea Triptych; The Eleventh Hour; Gateway; Magical Space; Creation; Time Being.
John Moulder: electric and acoustic guitars; Geof Bradfield: saxophones, bass clarinet; Jim Trompeter: piano; Larry Gray: bass; Paul Wertico: drums.