Alto king Jemeel Moondoc and his drummer Laurence Cook team up with bassist John Voight to offer five structured group improvisations, all of which hark back to earlier days in the free jazz movement, but with a twist.
In Moondoc's musical language, composition is reached by reaching another composition through improvisation. An intuitive language that anticipates nothing, it only sees the goal and tries to get there. Within the structure of the triplet -- three improvising musicians -- he has many ways to arrive "there." But trying to blow the guts out of the music itself, to force the door down by any means necessarry, is not one of the ways Moondoc and his band have of traveling there. This is a trio that is about playing, not blowing out the windows. As a result, more often than not, the musicians swing and dance rather than stomp and bolt. "Another One the Hard Way" is dedicated to Ornette Coleman, and it's easy to see why. From outside it is obvious that Moondoc (and one would have to argue every free improvising alto player) was influenced by Coleman's approach to both improvisation and phrasing on his horn. Moondoc realizes -- better than almost anyone -- the innate lyricism in Coleman's own compositions, and the baffling simplicity of his phraseology as a player. Voight is unbelievable in the way he uses harmonics as images to frame the playing of the entire band; it's not rhythm, it's architecture. So Moondoc blows sweet yet strong, and no one carries anyone else; this is jazz at its working best. The disc closes with the beautiful musical poem "Ruby's Riches." It's a love song, a ballad in the grand tradition that has new twists put on it by Voight especially, but Cook and Moondoc too. Moondoc's playing here is from the Coltrane book: his middle register fingering and longer phrasing suggest -- as does the tune's melody -- Coltrane's "Dear Lord." Halfway through Voight forces Moondoc and Cook to take it outside, bowing his ass off until the other two follow. Here come long extended sevenths, diminished ninths, and flattened fifths slipping in and over each other without the loss of melodic stature or harmonic creation achieved by the long, sensuous phrasing and lilting dynamic edge. All too soon, the piece moans its way to a sad, mournful, yet lovely close, bringing with it the close of the set with a gentle whisper. In sum, Tri-P-Let is what listeners have come to expect from Moondoc: nothing less than his measure of delivering perfection as closely and with as much spirited swinging argument as possible.