Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

620

Alphonse Mouzon: Virtue

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Digging deep into the MPS catalog for its first reissues of 2009, Promising Music revives drummer Alphonse Mouzon's Virtue, an eclectic 1977 fusion date that may have coasted towards nascent smooth jazz territory but highlights the significant difference between what that term meant then and now.



With a chorus singing "Master Funk" over the funky opening track of the same name, and Mouzon's get-down clavinet playing (he adds a wealth of keyboards in addition to those played by Stu Goldberg) over a disco-fied beat, it's hard not to think of this as the dangerous territory towards which originally hard-edged fusion was evolving. But with Gary Bartz's sax bringing some lean, bopish lines to Mouzon's booty-shaking beat, it's at least possible to ratchet down the groan factor a notch.



Phase-shifted Fender Rhodes and soprano sax on the rubato intro to "Baker's Daughter" reference early Weather Report, a reminder that Mouzon was the legendary supergroup's first drummer. But the intro merely sets up a fiery samba that, with Mouzon's wordless falsetto vocal, recalls Light as a Feather-era Return to Forever, as Mouzon, bassist Welton Gite, and Goldberg bolster a searing solo from Bartz that's followed by an even more blistering modal piano solo from Goldberg. Goldberg's playing throughout makes it a real shame that he never found the widespread acclaim he so clearly deserved.



While "Master Funk" and the grooving ballad "Come Into My Life" approach the contemporary jazz style that would ultimately lead to today's smooth jazz, it's important to acknowledge the difference. This was not pre-programmed chill-out music, and while it took advantage of the studio to create richer layers, this was still music played live by real players. Compared to some of Herbie Hancock's post-Headhunters excursions into disco at that time, Virtue remains an honest album that may have been looking for an audience, but doesn't abjectly pander. "Nyctophobia"—first heard on Level One (Arista, 1974) by guitarist Larry Coryell's group Eleventh House (also featuring Mouzon)—proves that Mouzon was still capable of virtuosic intensity, with relentless solos by Bartz and Goldberg pushed forward by Mouzon's take-no-prisoners approach and Gite's equally potent support, all of which continue on the equally unyielding title track.



"Poobli" returns to the funkier, Headhunters territory that Hancock had since deserted, featuring a Minimoog solo from Goldberg that, again, makes his relative footnote status a shame, but it's the album closer, the four-part "The Mouzon Drum Suite" that ensures Virtue's eclectic status. Ranging from the full-out assault of "Jazz-Rock Improvisation," to the groove-centric "Out of the Desert," the Afro-flavored "Colors of Africa," featuring Mouzon on hand percussion and mbira, to the closing "Total Swing" that brings the suite full-circle, it's an eight-minute history lesson in percussion and rhythm—all performed by Mouzon.



Mouzon has since moved more directly into smooth jazz territory, but Virtue remains a reminder that he was still capable of uncompromising, high energy fusion and kick-ass grooves, with a group of players equally up to the challenge.

Track Listing: Master Funk; Baker's Daughter; Come Into My Life; Nyctophobia; Virtue; Poobli; The Mouzon Drum Suite: Jazz-Rock Improvisation, Out of the Desert, Colors of Africa, Total Swing.

Personnel: Alphonse Mouzon: Sonor drums, tympanis, ARP Odyssey synthesizer, Hammond organ M3, Hohner clavinet C, xylophone, Paiste gongs, bongos, congas, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Solina string ensemble, vocals, "Master Funk" voice (1); Gary Bartz: soprano saxophone (2-4, 6), alto saxophone (1, 5); Stu Goldberg: Steinway grand piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Minimoog, all keyboard and Minimoog solos; Welton Gite: electric Gite bass; Linda: "Master Funk" voice (1); Gunde: "Master Funk" voice (1); Joachim Ernst Berendt: "Master Funk" voice (1); Welton: "Master Funk" voice (1).

Title: Virtue | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Promising Music/MPS

Tags

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Album Reviews
Interviews
Album Reviews
Read more articles
ANGEL FACE

ANGEL FACE

Tenacious Records
2011

buy
THE MAIN ATTRACTION

THE MAIN ATTRACTION

Tenacious Records
2010

buy
Virtue

Virtue

Promising Music/MPS
2009

buy
JAZZ IN BEL-AIR

JAZZ IN BEL-AIR

Tenacious Records
2008

buy
LIVE IN HOLLYWOOD

LIVE IN HOLLYWOOD

Tenacious Records
2001

buy

Related Articles

Read When Will The Blues Leave Album Reviews
When Will The Blues Leave
By Karl Ackermann
May 22, 2019
Read Crowded Heart Album Reviews
Crowded Heart
By Dan Bilawsky
May 22, 2019
Read Infinite Itinerant Album Reviews
Infinite Itinerant
By Geno Thackara
May 22, 2019
Read Pulcino Album Reviews
Pulcino
By Nicholas F. Mondello
May 22, 2019
Read Hastings Jazz Collective/Shadow Dances Album Reviews
Hastings Jazz Collective/Shadow Dances
By Dan McClenaghan
May 21, 2019
Read That's a Computer Album Reviews
That's a Computer
By Jerome Wilson
May 21, 2019
Read All I Do Is Bleed Album Reviews
All I Do Is Bleed
By Paul Naser
May 21, 2019