The aptly named Active Ingredients brings together four of the strongest players on the New York free scene. Drummer Chad Taylor worked with Fred Anderson and several Chicago Underground groupings before moving east. Bassist Tom Abbs plays with the Brooklyn Jump Arts Collective and anchors other ensembles with Taylor. Trombonist Steve Swell has employed alto saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc in his Unified Theory of Sound; Moondoc also leads groups of his own.
“Song for Dyani” establishes the group identity with Taylor playing with three hands and Abbs happy to keep up with his pace. Swell and Moondoc play an easy theme sounding old yet futuristic, their leisurely pace at odds with the hurricane rhythms. Moondoc finds plenty to do while soloing, and the tune fades out with Swell wailing. Starting slow and serious, “Velocity” becomes a casually daring field of solo for Moondoc and Swell.
On “Slate” Taylor’s drum set sounds like it’s being played by a hail storm. Moondoc blows wild and personal with Swell and Mazurek adding color with head charts. “Visual Industries” has Taylor and Abbs running like Godzilla’s coming. Their manic pace contrasts with the theme unison played lazily by Swell and Moondoc. Everything stops for a bowed Abbs solo broken by the others returning with the Ornetteish theme. Moondoc sets blues and small moody thoughts against his raging rhythm section.
Abbs starts “Modern Mythology” with a solid, straightforward bass line. Taylor joins on hand drum, then Moondoc leads Swell and Rob Mazurek in a discreet hunting theme that busts open with Moondoc repeating a line similar to “A Love Supreme.” Taylor’s drumming keeps it humid, until he switches to sticks during Moondoc’s solo. The band clicks into group improv before restructuring for Mazurek and Swell’s extended duet. Both players respond to Moondoc’s calls on “Titration,” eventually playing unison until Moondoc and Swell explore together over the tumultuous rhythm section. David Boykin takes it down and plays it sweet, but once the tempo comes back Boykin urges the band through a stellar regions flight. The piece resolves with a solemn horn arrangement.
Active Ingredients has turned in an impressive debut. Amidst the many projects to which these musicians contribute, hopefully this group will become a priority.
Track Listing: Song for Dyani; Velocity; Slate; Visual Industries; Modern Mythology; Absence; Titration; Dependent Origination; Other People?s Problems.
Personnel: Jemeel Moondoc, alto sax; Chad Taylor, drum; Tom Abbs, bass; Steve Swell Trombone; Rob Mazurek, coronet; David Boyken, tenor
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.