Trevor Watts Moiré Music / Trevor Watts

With One Voice

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Saxophonist Trevor Watts founded his Moiré Music project in the early '80s, and by the turn of the millennium there had been so many Moiré incarnations that it was hard to keep them all straight. A newcomer seeking an entry point to the Moiré discography could very well be perplexed and not know where to start. Well, how about here? Simply put, With One Voice, originally released in 1988 on Watts' Arc label and reissued 15 years later on FMR with a tremendous previously unreleased bonus track, is a stunning album, beautifully deep and harmonious, filled with joyous expression and a multi-layered groove stretching to the horizon and beyond. This is one of the finest lineups to realize Watts' vision for Moiré as a fabric of intertwining melodic and rhythmic lines rooted in creative jazz and inspired by African traditional musics. The nine-piece outfit heard here, recorded live at the Rye Festival in South East England on September 5, 1988, includes alto saxophonist Watts ably matched by Simon Picard on tenor, with the musical fabric stitched together by the rippling piano of Veryan Weston, the warm accordion of Richard Granville-Smith, the solid foundation of bassist Colin Gibson and drummer Liam Genockey, the circular rhythms of Ghanaian percussionists Nana Tsiboe and Kofi Adu, and finally, the ebullient wordless vocalizing of singer Liane Carroll, who also played keyboards on the date.

The opening 12-and-a-half-minute "Themes for America No. 1" kicks things off with Watts, Picard, and Weston tearing through impossibly quick fusion-flavored unison lines over a rolling groove; Picard darts and jabs in his tenor solo -- soon joined by Watts on alto -- as the vamp churns forward and the keyboardists build drama through their powerful chording. It's a riveting start, nicely leavened later on by Carroll's nimble scatting as the band brings the dynamic down to a simmer behind her. "Need We Ever Say Goodbye" maintains a steady groove with interlocking parts beneath Watts' sharp alto articulations; the band's harmonics become darkly hued before returning to a more affirming theme. The layers of contrapuntal motifs approach minimalistic precision in the nearly 20-minute "Themes for America No. 2" -- and the immersive mix places the listener nicely in the middle of it all -- but the music remains malleable and flowing, so spirited and organic that a segue into a bright sax-and-vocal melody sounds entirely natural. After a massive buildup, the band settles back into call-and-response mode and a rather mysterious, understated finale. Yet the shimmering, buoyant music continues on the 2003 FMR reissue, which includes the 17-minute bonus track "Themes for America No. 4," another paradoxically complex yet freewheeling groovefest -- with a fine percussion showcase for Tsiboe and Adu. Once again, the individual musicians stand out while also joining together in a truly unified whole, an ever-permuting whirlwind of riffs, melodies, rhythms, and solos forming a swelling communal sound whose separate facets nevertheless shine brightly and distinctly.

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