Friday, April 02, 2010

Jemeel Moondoc - Muntu Recordings (No Business, 2010)

The 1970's were an interesting time for jazz in New York City. Economics and changing tastes in music led to a shuttering of many opportunities for progressive jazz in the city. This led some musicians to get creative and took matters into their own hands, opening their own performance spaces and creating their own record labels. Muntu was a group led by alto saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc playing open ended free jazz with a rotating cast of musicians during the mid 1970's to early 1980's. This was a very interesting three disc set that reissues the two albums recorded by the group and includes an previously unissued live performance from Rashied Ali's loft Ali's Alley. Also included is a lengthy book with valuable essays detailing the history and evolution of the band and the Loft Jazz scene in New York in the 1970's. Disc One has the Muntu album First Feeding with Moondoc on alto saxophone, Arthur Williams on trumpet, Mark Hennen on piano, William Parker on bass and Rashid Bakr on drums. After opening with the short title track, the group performs two lengthy compositions, "Flight (From the Yellow Dog)" and "Theme for Milford (Mr. Body and Soul)." Disc two includes the Muntu album The Evening of the Blue Men, with the group pared back to a quartet with Roy Campbell on trumpet, William Parker on bass Rashid Bakr on drums. This has two long performances, the uptempo "The Evening of the Blue Men, Part 3 (Double Expo)" which builds to an extraordinary and exciting improvisation filled with thrilling energy. The other performance on this album, "Theme for Diane," takes things in the opposite with a moody and slow building theme developed over the course of a patient and thoughtful improvisation. Disc three shows Muntu pared down even further, with Moondoc with Parker on bass and Bakr on drums, investigating a near forty minute version of "Theme for Milford (Mr. Body and Soul)." This package was a very interesting look at an under-appreciated band and a valuable glimpse into the loft jazz scene of the 1970's.