Courtesy of One Final Note: Jemeel Moondoc continues his remarkable string of recordings with these two releases on Jan Strom's Ayler label. Taken together, they highlight the vast creative powers and interest in range of material that is an integral component in securing Moondoc's stature within the creative music scene.
Live at the Glenn Miller Café, Vol. 1, a trio set with William Parker and Hamid Drake comprising the rhythm section, is a triumphant affair. "Hi-Rise" gets off to an angular start with Moondoc and Drake playing herky jerky, start and stop phrases over the top of a driving Parker bass line. After stating the theme four times, Moondoc launches into an extended solo marked by some exemplary blowing in the upper register. At just over thirty minutes, the trio stretches out to explore the implications of the theme and setting—although sometimes-awkward transitions between group and solo sections threaten to stall the momentum. Moondoc's playing is melodic, surging, and confident, if not lacking sometimes in scope—his incessant repetition of the theme suggests a slight discomfort with this sort of extended improvisation. The boisterous crowd doesn't seem to mind.
At this stage of the game, one feels self-conscious about throwing any additional acclaim Drake and Parker's way. And yet, even though they've trod this ground before, their playing and, more importantly, listening, never ceases to amaze. This is partly due to their incessant inventiveness, both as individual players and as what will undoubtedly go down as one of the most significant bass/drum sections in jazz history. The sources of inspiration certainly run deep, and both players pull from any variety of musical genres and cultures. While Parker's liner notes suggest that "Aztec, Mayan, and Incan" civilizations were primary muses this time around, it's hard to trace those "ancient rhythms". What one can hear is Drake playing exceptionally fast faux Latin rhythms, a la Art Blakey, relying upon the bell of his ride cymbal to focus the surrounding cascade of toms and drums. Parker is all drive here, less exploratory, but manages to turn in another shocking solo, pulling at the strings to the point of fracture. In many ways, he plays the straight man to Drake's wanderings on "Hi-Rise", grounded while driving the group and defining the overall energy and pulse of the piece.
Moondoc begins "Blues From My People" with a rather dubious history of the saxophone in jazz. While the stage banter is amusing enough, at almost three and a half minutes, an edit wouldn't have hurt matters. "Blues" begins dirge-like, and comparisons to Ornette Coleman are most applicable here—they both share a certain vulnerable lyricism that is immediately compelling in this kind of context. Moondoc's blues is more propulsive than Ornette's, though, and his tone is stronger. His improvisations here are his finest moment on the disc. Drake, starting on brushes and taking somewhat of a backseat (except for a solo epitomizing why he is such a sought-after player), and Parker, pushing and prodding from any variety of directions (including another stellar solo statement, plangent, and taken at half-time tempo), make this a standout performance.