There are drummers, and then there is Bob Moses. [Holy Hyperbole, Batman!] Well, it’s true: there aren’t many jazz drummers like Bob Moses. To say his resume is impressive is a gross understatement (Gary Burton, R. Roland Kirk, Pat Metheny’s 1st album, Steve Kuhn, etc.); he’s a fascinating, effective and engaging composer/arranger a la Gil Evans and Carla Bley (a bunch of discs on Gramavision, officially out of print but well worth seeking); and he’s a helluva drummer, a descendant of Art Blakey though he sounds nothing like him. Chicago saxophonist and student of Moses Doug Rosenberg had the moxie and good sense to arrange for Moses to come to Chicago, to play the legendary Velvet Lounge (where you are sometimes greeted at the door by owner/Chicago free jazz sax legend Fred Anderson).
It was just the two of them on stage it would have be nice to see/hear a bigger band, but these cats filled up the room with their sounds. One might assume (that word: break it down) that a performance of just drums and sax (tenor & soprano) would be an avant-garde skronk-fest wrong. Moses was playing "free" when many of today’s generation of heavyweight "out" cats were still eating strained spinach, but his style has absorbed free/out playing and integrated it with hard swing and a touch of rockin’ oomph. (Moses was also playing fusion when aw, you get the idea.) Rosenberg (who's played w/ Ari Brown, Mulgrew Miller & John Sinclair) has a big, firm sound, a la Wayne Shorter and David Liebman, and plays with a refreshing directness and humble confidence, that sense of forward, linear motion, like he’s "going someplace." I don’t think he needs to "engage in a search for the Sacred Truth" in his playing because he’s already found it, and he doesn’t make a big deal of it. I’m not such how much, if any, of the music these folks played was worked out in advance, but BM & DR played with a unity of purpose, free-flowing imagination, and ebb-and-flow dynamics there were some moments when the music would meander a bit, and then ZANG! They would rein it in and find/create an overt or covert groove, and it was electric. As for the man of the hour: if there was an ocean of percussionists before him, I bet Moses could part them. He plays those drums with a brisk physicality, yet he seems utterly at ease. Moses plays with these shorter and heavier than usual drumsticks they look like little logs. While he seems possessed by spiritual forces while playing, Moses is also possessed by a sense of down-to-earth, here & now, just plain folks aura. And the crowd dug it, indeed. [Postscript: be on the lookout for the disc Love Animal, a Bob Moses session from 1967/8, featuring Larry Coryell, Keith Jarrett and the late Jim Pepper, released on Moses’ own Mozown label in conjunction with Billy Martin’s Amulet label it’s a grand, raw, almost punk-rock slice of early fusion. Also, for acoustic "out" styles, seek his early 70s large group set Bittersuite in the Ozone (same label), w/ Randy Brecker, Eddie Gomez, Howard Johnson and the late Jeanne Lee.]