Michael Moore

Felix Quartet
Ramboy #33

Although a native of California, which when it come to fads and fancies, may be the US’s most guileless state, reedist Michael Moore seems to have internalized some European cynicism during his more than three decade Dutch residency. How else would you describe the evolution of this live CD? Like a gentleman wearing bespoke suiting, who opens his shirt and rolls up his pant legs to reveal mesh underwear and brightly patterned hose, The Felix Quart starts off as it’s going to be an exercise in chamber Jazz, but ends up with tunes that thump and yelp so assuredly that they swing readily as well as highlighting unexpected trimbral augmentation.

Perhaps a Nero Wolfe-like tune detective should have noted the identity of the characters gathered to interpret Moore’s eight compositions though. Drummer Michael Vatcher may be a fellow Golden State native, but in the past he’s been seen in the company of such sonic trouble makers as John Zorn and Phill Minton. Anyhow he brought his hammer dulcimer to this gig. Expert in combining primtivist caterwauling and fleet narratives to his trombone-playing Wolter Wierbos has, along with Moore, been a long-time member of the ICP Orchestra. An impeccable time keeper, bassist Wilbert de Joode hides a tendency for disruptive strops and scrapes exhibited playing with the likes of Han Bennink and Han Buhrs, behind a Buster Keaton-like poker face

In short, manifestations of barely-there clarinet glissandi and understated percussion clatter at the beginning soon give way to canine-like yelps from the clarinet, mocking brass tones and a shifting sea cruise-like rhythm on “Big Dog”. From then on the four players operate like well-bred marauders, disrupting sonic complacency, but maintaining high musical standards. “Away, away” may start off with whinnying and warbling from both horns for instance, but thanks to the bassist, it takes on a foot-patting familiarity mid-way through. Among the bass thumps and cymbal plops that characterize “Ant Highway”, is Moore’s unruffled Pete Brown-Willie Smith-like saxophone facility. Most distinctively, conspicuously placed among tunes which call for horn giggles and gurgles plus rhythm section throbs and thump, is the balanced construction of “Cry”. On it, after Vatcher’s dulcimer string hammering pummels Moore’s rococo-styled exposition, De Joode’s string underlining cements the parts into a whole that emphasizes the tune’s Latin roots as well as new musical routes.

On the evidence here, it appears that you can take the boy out of the country, if the location is California USA and the sounds are ever-changing improvised music. Instead Moore and his compatriots in the Fellix Quartet here comfortably define multi-faceted, up-to-date Dutch Jazz.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Ramses 2. A Drubbing 3. Big Dog 4. Away, away 5. Lower Forty 6. Cry 7. Ant Highway 8. Tis Abay

Personnel: Wolter Wierbos (trombone); Michael Moore (alto saxophone and clarinet); Wilbert de Joode (bass) and Michael Vatcher (drums and hammer dulcimer)