Grachan Moncur III Octet


Capri Records 74068-2

Exploration; Monk In Wonderland; Love and Hate; New Africa; When?; Frankenstein; Excursion; Sonny's Back!; Total Time: 53:43

Grachan Moncur III, trombone; Dave Woodley, trombone; Tim Hagans, trumpet; Gary Smulyan, baritone sax; Billy Harper, tenor sax; Gary Bartz, alto sax; Ray Drummond, bass; Andrew Cyrille, drums

This fine album marks the return of Moncur to the recording scene after several decades of laying low (including teaching music in Newark, New Jersey.) Moncur produced several fine albums for the Blue Note label as a leader and sideman (most notably with Jackie McLean) in the 1960s, all of the progressive-tending-to-avant garde nature. This is his first recording since several dates as leader and with Archie Shepp in the early 1970s.

All of the material is composed by Moncur, with most of it dating to his earlier recordings. But this is by no means a mere rehashing. All of the music sounds fresh, in no small part because Moncur's composing was ahead of its time in the first place. Moreover, there are new arrangements by Mark Masters, who clearly respects and honors creative music and musicians. The liner notes quote him "I try to do something completely different from the [original] recordings while retaining the overall structure of the tunes. And it all shines even more with the participation of 8 of the best musicians in modern Jazz. The line-up includes 4 brass and 3 saxophones, with the rhythm provided by bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Andrew Cyrille (and no piano on the date). The sound reminded me at times of some of the best and most melodic of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, or Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy or John Coltrane's Africa/Brass sessions. Every musician is of the highest integrity and they all came to play, bringing a wealth of experience and skill. there's fine ensemble playing throught, and each of the nine players gets solo space at least once on the 8 tracks. At least half of the musicians rose to prominence in the 1960s and are now in 60s, but they still know how to burn. Highly recommended.

by Howard Fieldstein