Jonathan Moritz led his trio on Monday night as part of one of this summer’s most exciting concert series at Muchmore’s in Williamsburg. Kudos to Yoni Kretzmer for curating this fantastic series giving greater exposure to a number of talented players. The band also includes Shayna Dulberger (bass) and Mike Pride (percussion). Their new album, Secret Tempo, will be officially released in September.
Moritz is not a musician who lacks ideas. In fact, he seems to be spilling over with innovations on how to extend the vocabulary of both the tenor and soprano saxophones. The music his group performed and recently recorded consists of pieces with explicit aims at challenging existing paradigms and moving into uncharted territory–all without discarding that special musicality that makes these pieces communicate with the audience.
The live performance began with a series of pieces “Melody,” “Harmony,” and “Rhythm” which together comprise “Fundamentals.” These are collective improvisations based upon underlying composition that give each musician an equal voice. These pieces were very successful in that they avoided any overt attempt at cohesion, but nevertheless achieved a sort of unity through interplay between the three. Dulberger’s beautiful and bold bass lines–most often bowed–provided a swirl of deep color around which the other two added constant fire. Moritz can fill the room with his sound when he chooses to do so, but his impressive restraint in using space and subtlety are what shape his remarkably original sound on instruments even as well-traveled as the tenor and soprano sax.
The second half of the live performance included “Medium” and “Fast”, together forming the first two parts of the tri-partite “Tempos” (the third component, “Ballad” was dropped because of time constraints). Moritz’ talents as a bandleader were even more evident with these pieces as he carried on an ecstatic interchange with both of the other band members. The orchestration of the music was tight even as it was abstract with Pride adding a great number of unexpected elements while keeping the band on course. Moritz, meanwhile, achieved an interesting effect by creating an anticipated sound with his lines and then avoiding the expected endpoint. These two songs expressed as much in their sound as they did in what was not played–a brilliant interaction with the imagination of the audience. The closing piece, “7779,” featured a rich and warm solo by Dulberger that served as a fitting conclusion to the performance.
As forward-looking as this music is, it also engages with the long history of jazz. There are clearly elements of swing and, at times, Moritz’ full tone is reminiscent of a number of great tenor players. His keen ability to create moments of interchange between musicians is one of his most striking compositional talents.
The album, Secret Tempo, on Hot Cup Records, will be available in September. The studio recording and the live performance each offer different but interrelated ways to experience this music. The record is more intimate in its relation to the listener and the tones of the sound, slightly warmer. The live performance adds a visual component–Moritz is an animated player and an album dedicated to exploring tempos and rhythm comes alive in interesting ways on the public stage. Get out and see this band perform and pick up a copy of their record–you will find it returning to your CD player again and again.
Jonathan Moritz plays again next Monday (July 8) at Muchmore’s as a member of the Carlo Costa Quartet.