Moor Mother, Jazz Codes, Anti- ***

There are menus of possibilities here because of the numerous guests on the 18 tracks none longer than 4-and-a-half minutes. Vocalists Wolf Weston and Melanie Charles appear quite often but it's the concept of Moor Mother of course that counts and …

Published: 2 Jul 2022. Updated: 39 days.

There are menus of possibilities here because of the numerous guests on the 18 tracks none longer than 4-and-a-half minutes. Vocalists Wolf Weston and Melanie Charles appear quite often but it's the concept of Moor Mother of course that counts and as a poet she ranks. But when I switched this on Matana Roberts' Coin Coin project purely for the family history genealogy aspects on the 'Umzansi' track sprang to mind first. While not at all compelling and neither is 'April 7th' although Keir Neuringer's sax is a strong presence, Moor Mother's homilies start to gel more as the album unfolds. For a sturdier vocal Melanie Charles' 'Golden Lady' is the first glimpse. (Is it a version of the Stevie Wonder classic? No!) Neuringer crops up again on the political anti-far right and police rap 'Joe McPhee Nation Time Intro' which works well. Check the scalding 1971 Joe McPhee album which inspired the track.

'Ode to Mary' that has Jason Moran on it is the most interesting track by far. Certainly you do not often hear Moran in a context such as this, in ridiculously and certainly deliberate lo-fi internet-like sound quality.

The 'Woody Shaw' track streamed some weeks ago was previously in our news spot. Its woozy customised steadiness of the beat appeals and counts as one of the best tracks. But 'Meditation Rag' doesn't do much for me although 'So Sweet Amina' with a practically narcoleptic feel is better. Wolf Weston on 'Dust Together' adds welcome input (and 'Evening' later is strong invoking the name of Miles Davis effectively) and it's as if temporarily a second record is now beginning to emerge. Overall the impact is hit and miss. And a lot of the tracks that come next are very slight even when the pervasive choice of grooves is OK. The Nicole Mitchell track 'Arms Save' is best of the whole album certainly for the way the instrumental sound is captured and it seems more coherent. Overall a bit disappointing apart from the Moran and Mitchell tracks. I prefer Circuit City while applauding the risk-taking nature and the pure artistry of Moor Mother once again. Fewer guests and even more poetry next time - let's hope. SG

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Tags: reviews

Influencers - beyond the playlist

Like they say word of mouth is the best recommendation. Where that comes from isn't always consensus. In fact given how jazz thrives on a highly unofficial coalition of dissentient tastes is there even one beyond all begrudgery? The critics give …

Published: 1 Jul 2022. Updated: 40 days.

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Like they say word of mouth is the best recommendation.

Where that comes from isn't always consensus. In fact given how jazz thrives on a highly unofficial coalition of dissentient tastes is there even one beyond all begrudgery? The critics give some answers, the public others, sometimes these are the same. Often they are not. Whose consensus it it, anyway?

Given the popularity of playlists on big streaming sites that may be one way towards the Holy Grail of word of mouth. But it's not the best way. Here's why: You just put the track on and the next and the next and so on. It's a lazy listen. And yet there are loads of tracks you probably have never heard before. You certainly come away with a general style impression and that's OK but not ideal. Your knowledge is still limited and you may be not even thinking. But just ponder, you are out there in the street with your headphones on or WFH in Redditch and track after track comes up for you. It's function music, to help you on your way. Like hearing music over the PA in a restaurant while you play finger tennis with your fish knife and try to somehow please your latest internet squeeze. By no means is it an active listen. Like the most deadly of vegetables for tastebuds broccoli - the taste of playlists can pall.

Listening through a radio show is a different experience. You go by the tracks actually forward-and-backwards-announced if lucky. If it's a magazine show you may have to go with the curator's choice (which is the radio producer's choice) so that depends on the format of the show and what they will and won't play. If you don't know the parameters you will be in the dark. You may just switch off when the next ad for a Corby trouser press comes on for the umpteenth time during the show or be persuaded enough to drop everything that you are doing to dash off to buy one.

Working on recommendations of written word media is a different experience and much more useful given how super educated, picky and clued-up most serious jazz listeners are.

That's because listeners want to know more than the scattiness of a playlist or a ''lucky'' landing on a radio show even if there are features.

''Written word'' media is now mainly online. Gone are the days when you had to wait for a month to read your favourite hard-to-track-down jazz magazine. It's better this way - writers can respond more quickly, there is less spin from powerful publicists and writers can for the first time in years go directly to the artist for their point of view more than in the 1990s of 2000s when powerful publicists controlled all access. That isn't the case now and that is a good thing. A small blog (in other words a publication) can and often punches above its weight given skill, the gen, and determination.

Above all what you as a reader wishing to discover more properly selected jazz wants is information on a regular basis. Like every day delivered in an eclectic, critical (but not too aggravating) manner emphasising tracks, albums and the stories behind the playlists from the makers and following the plot as it develops. It's not a grab it and go situation, the story needs time and daily sites can spool out regular morsels in interesting ways.

The one thing no one wants is the automization of choice which if it happens in extreme form entirely benefits big companies, tech giants and major labels most. To an extent it is happening but that's just the Internet anyway. To make a good choice you need to know independent ideas. If you don't you may well be sold a pup yet again.

The little person is the jazz guy, the interesting maverick who does not go with the herd and actually has their finger on the pulse even if often shabbily dressed, living in a shed, and a bit of a trainspotter. The herd mentality is to listen to shiny, happy, sun-always-shines-on-TV 24/7 Ed Sheeran which a lot of people are perfectly (pun intended) happy to do all day long.

Squeeze the little person out and jazz dies another death and if managing to survive at all in the embers goes even more subterranean beyond morale-boosting bursts like when Love Supreme or the London Jazz Festival are on. Careful what you wish for when you buy into a narrative dominated by Universal and their close partners (as jazz is in terms of most big labels). And look in the news the megacorp now owns the voluminous Frank Zappa catalogue. The irony of We're Only In It For The Money is fairly inescapable even if more of a highly acrobatic semantic double salkow yet again by all concerned.

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