Jemeel Moondoc

Spirit House

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Raw, loose, and wild, Jemeel Moondoc's Jus Grew Orchestra features some of the best improvisational talent east of the Mississippi. Moondoc's compositions and arrangements effectively highlight the strengths of the players, the list of which reads as a sort of who's who of the avant-garde jazz scene. Standouts include trombonist Steve Swell, who puts in one his best displays on disc; trumpeter Roy Campbell, impressive and svelte; baritone saxophonist Michael Marcus, navigating the ocean depths; tenor saxophonist Zane Massey, with a surprisingly agile performance; and drummer Cody Moffett, whose searing solo on "Spirit House" tears down the house. Tying it all together is the remarkable writing of Moondoc (who also solos on alto), with contagious riffs, danceable melodies, and careening rhythms. Never out of control and yet full of adventure, Moondoc steers the ten-piece band around a self-imposed obstacle course, in which the only guideposts are his fertile imagination. Some listeners may be reminded of some of Henry Threadgill's non-electric, early group efforts, which combined quirky melodies with non-swinging bursts of flaming brass. Moondoc translates the concept to a larger structure, with his own individual stamp and raucous ensemble writing. A band that begs to be heard live, Moondoc's Jus Grew Orchestra ignites and inflames passionately and breathlessly. If it is a bit unpolished at times, the overall spirit easily compensates. In all, a joyous fusion of hard bop and avant-garde visions.

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