Dan Moretti and Once Through

Passing Place

Whaling City Sound, USA

In my neighborhood in the Bronx there are two positive musical sources (over and above the odd radio playing OK merengue and excruciating hip-hop down the street the other way): there's the family almost directly across with the wind chimes on their porch and then there's a fellow in a fearsome set of dreads who plays a very nice tenor saxophone somewhere upstairs in my building.

Sometimes when I hear him practice I wonder if I've reviewed anything of his here. He has a big friendly tone, as does Dan Moretti (tenor and soprano saxes) on Passing Place. If not, well maybe he reads Jazz Now and will get the idea.

You would not be averse to have Mr. Moretti as an upstairs neighbor either, I think. His band (Paul Nagel, piano and Hammond organ; Marty Ballou, acoustic/electric bass; Marty Richards, drums; Jorge Najaro, congas and bongos; Bruce Bartlett, electric guitar) is not unlike those five- and six-pieces Sonny Rollins used to tour and record with in the eighties. Think of Sonny's Milestone releases Next Album or Horn Culture from around that time.

We hear bouncy funk on Passing Place ("Avant Blue" featuring a tart solo from Bartlett), and a high-function drone vehicle with literate percussing from Mr. Richards ("Present Tense"). There's good depth here in that these superhard bop breakouts slash past the listener with a great sense of "make a joyful noise." It ain't from the church but it'll do just fine.

Fans of the Hammond organ and all its contents will get a kick out of the gutbucket "Kooksville," replete with Nagel's fills, rhythm phrases, and smears. It doesn't really function as a backup instrument, the chart notwithstanding, but somehow it makes the song its own without ever soloing.

I don't know if you're old enough to have seen the late comic actor Zero Mostel onstage, but he often subtly altered a scene in which he played a part so as to make it about him even if it originally wasn't. Hard to fault Zero then; hard to fault Nagel now. You're having too good a time digging it.

Moretti, game as you please, takes the long view and slipstreams it into the close. Some interesting lead phrase voicings on this CD arise when Moretti's sax and Bartlett's guitar twin up for a run. It should happen more often!

No meta-traditional bop quintet or sextet puts out a release without something Spanish-tinged, and "You Said What?" is this one's entry. Bouncy to a fault like a late Steely Dan hit, Nagel switches to piano and kicks it up a notch above a forest of Najaro's hand drums. Moretti switches to soprano and takes it on the arches, as it were.

Over a whole CD the leader's voice is easy to warm to because he's found slots between the paths of the greats in the field and has made his own way. I do fulminate a lot in my reviews about how this song recalls a 'Trane vehicle or a Cole Porter turnabout or some such, but in doing so I just want to establish some parameters so that the listener will have a bit of a better take on where the music appears to yours truly to be coming from.

Hopefully this does not detract from the accomplishments of the artist I am actually reviewing! Thanks to the sophistication of the language of Jazz (given how many dialects now exist) and that of many listeners, very few players get out of the bar scene by aping Ben Webster playing "My Funny Valentine." To quote Bart Simpson, "Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt." It's doubtful any Barts will say that about Moretti. His comfortably good-natured style is very much his own.

Once Through and its captain approach the closing of this CD with a floaty, dreamlike take of Wayne Shorter's "Virgo." Not an easy track since the melody (such as it is) is weird as Wayne at his most ethereal. No problem for this lot. Bartlett and Ballou provide the cushioning for a series of seemingly disconnected yet free-flowing tenor phrases, and there's a wonderfully loose feeling here. The track ends where it seems it should, almost sounding through-composed, and Ballou reins his bass in to the point that whole bars will go by under Bartlett's solo without him striking a note. Once he does, however, all the rests make sense. Very fine.

Yeah, I've said it for any number of other CDs reviewed on Jazz Now. Nobody tries to reinvent the wheel here, but that's because somebody else already did. Good stuff. Try it.


 John Hart Trio


Hep Jazz, UK

 Probably one of the first really small but well-known post-swing, pre-bop groups was the Benny Goodman Trio (and it's easy to see why). The small group has less firepower but a far greater chance to expand and contract the roles of each instrument in contrast to the others and greater potential plasticity because there is simply less traffic on the road. Enter the John Hart Trio as a good example.

 Fluent to a fault and a unit in the classic sense, the group (Bill Moring, bass; Tim Horner, drum kit; Hart, guitars) can do the mellifluous thing, throw in a backwards blues ("Clone Me"), spin out an old standard or two ("A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square"), and even slam the whammer bar down in a somewhat more metallic fashion.

There is also "a little bit," as Hart says in his cheery liner notes, "of homage to Jimi Plays Berkeley." Actually he says that about the equally strenuous "Techno Prisoners," but a certain debt to James Marshall Hendrix does pop up here and there.

Moring is far too laid back, multileveled, and subtle to drop the bomb as Experience bassist Noel Redding used to do, but Horner's rubbery technique does have its Mitch Mitchell shading here and there, so the Jimi echoes are good fun and welcome.

It's good to hear Hendrix's sound world so respectably and wittily accessed as it is on Indivisible. Some of us may be too young to remember how many young bucks like Frank Marino's Mahogany Rush, Randy California, and Robin Trower got Jimi's foreboding/crocodile tears/bemused shotgunning down well enough in the years after Hendrix passed on, but seldom his humor or his unbelievable ability to think in several directions at once.

The late Frank Zappa could do that, and still-active English whiz Phil Miller (he of the wonderful Jazz-rock band In Cahoots) is equally capable when he's of a mind, but I can't recall anybody else offhand.

Hart is hardly a Jimi clone but in his respect and understanding of the man's work he does provide the connect to something I've been wondering all my reviewing life: would Jimi have moved on to Jazz eventually? I believe so, as I just don't think R&B (see The Cry of Love, his last actual record) was going to hold his attention forever.

But the Jimi legacy isn't the only star in this particular sky. Try the two-faced melody in "Awakening," which has Hart on acoustic essaying some string-bending and a sweet smirk or two. It works. I have no idea how, but it does.


 Plenty of goodies line this particular gift box but I should really wind up with Duke Ellington's "Single Petal of a Rose." Back on hollow-bodied electric, Mr. Hart finds repeating, decaying, and building motifs I never heard in any other version of this tune. Well, I went back to one of Duke's arrangements, and damned if I didn't find them after all. But that's what the chief pratfall of standards are: leaving them as such and not transcending them however you can.

Kudos also to Moring for finding a groove within the piece that is not a groove, and for taking it out with a kind wave on the last sixteen bars.

Hooks galore, three guys who demonstrate an ubermind of their very own and who discover a thing (which, Mr. Hart assures us, did not come from Lake Erie) and choose to nurture it rather than kill it like in all those bad 1960s horror movies. What's not to like?


Lonely Woman

Demons' Diversions

Hazel Jazz, Norway

.I think I first heard the term post-bop when I bought the Atlantic Records reissue of Chick Corea's early sixties first solo recording, Tones for Joan's Bones. Along with the four tunes from that record, the reissue (Inner Space, which came out in the early seventies) included several other Corea goodies found in the Atlantic vaults to flesh out a double album--remember those?).

 As far as I could figure out, post-bop was that waystation between, say, Dizzy Gillespie on one side and Cecil Taylor on another. Post-bop seemed to allow for twentieth-century classical influence. Some early examples were Slide Hampton, Gil Evans, and Miles Davis beginning roughly around the time of Kind of Blue and extending into his 1964-68 quintet with Herbie Hancock.

Lately post-bop's natural progression has taken us to other amalgams of influence like Gebhard Ullmann and Barry Guy (often drawing on serialism and the Second Viennese School), and the more in groups like Lonely Woman here and Softworks. This quintet's sort of post-bop impressionism (named for a favorite early Ornette Coleman track) may well float your boat just fine.

Lonely Woman recently backed former Art Ensemble of Chicago reedman-turned-experimentalist Roscoe Mitchell in their home country, and I'd like to have been there. Demons' Diversions is their second CD (a couple of years back I reviewed their first, Live 2003, on the same label, here at Jazz Now). It's a suite written in its entirety by sax/bass clarinetist Vidar Johansen.

Some lovely work here from everybody (Roy Nikolaisen, trumpet/fluegelhorn; Rune Klakegg, piano; Tine Amundsen, string bass; Svein Christiansen, drum kit) on a very tuneful and serpentine set of tracks. "Part #1" opens with chiming piano and an angled melody, some Debussy shadowing appearing in the chords. Christiansen sticks to the brushes and Amundsen's plucked central chorale holds the ear and won't let go.

"Krom" ups the flame under the pot a tad with a very urbane if genteel swagger. Klakegg solos first with a pointillist's brush and an affinity for moving at a slight out-of-phase speed with everybody else. Johansen's tenor essays a very classic-sounding leap off the chords. You'll be humming that one.

Quite a few ballads pepper this suite: my faves are "Obs Blufs" for its easy charm (Nikolaisen steps out with a certain understanding air) and "Sleep" for its lengthy meditation on a set of tones not too far from those that form the infrastructure for Miles's "Flamenco Sketches."

Johansen sounds like he's double-tracking his bass clarinet here. They flicker like twin votive lights as he and Nikolaisen trade very loose eights at a walking pace, then join up for a wistful mid-on unison statement. Very tasty.

"Demon's Dinner" paces a bit faster with a long, almost composed-all-the-way-through head that just keeps turning and swooping. As one can imagine is done on most suites, "Ending" returns to the chiming piano bit and a last look back--overall, delightful.


I suppose if Archie Shepp's fire music is more your fare, this might not do. Anybody into something well-thought-out and thickly melodic, however, should get this.

Lonely Woman was a bit wiggier on their first release, but this quintet has, I hope, plenty more roads to traverse. I'm looking forward to where they head next.


 By Ken Egbert


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