Saturday, September 28, 2013

JEMEEL MOONDOC – Muntu Recordings - 3 CD Box, 1975/1977/1979 (2009)

Label: NoBusiness Records – NBCD 7-8-9
Format: 3 x CD, Compilation, Limited Edition Box Set; Country: Lithuania - Released: 2009
Style: Free Jazz 
CD1 - "First Feeding" recorded April 17, 1977 at Bob Blank Studios, New York City. Originally released in 1977 on Muntu Records 1001.  
CD2 - "The Evening Of The Blue Men" recorded March 30, 1979 live at Saint Marks Church in New York City. Originally released in 1979 on Muntu Records 1002.
CD3 - "Live At Ali's Alley" recorded April 20, 1975 live at Ali ’ s Alley. Previously unreleased session
Composed By – Jemeel Moondoc

Limited edition of 1000 handnumbered copies.

Rashid Bakr, Roy Campbell, William Parker, Jemeel Moondoc, Groningen 1980

Jemeel Moondoc, Arthur Williams, Studio Rivbea, 1976

William Parker , Anthony Brown, Jemeel Moondoc, Billy Bang, Groningen 1978

Christened with a name that communicates his endearing musical idiosyncrasy, altoist Jemeel Moondoc has followed a career in free jazz quite similar to his peers in its many ups, downs and detours. This revelatory box set tracks the early years of that trajectory and returns the saxophonist’s initial recordings to circulation, two LPs originally released on Moondoc’s Muntu label. A third disc captures the trio version of Muntu live at Ali’s Alley, drummer Rashied Ali’s loft space, and is actually the earliest music on the set.

Moondoc was a student of Cecil Taylor’s during the pianist ’ s early- ’ 70s tenures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Antioch College, participating in numerous workshops and performing with various student ensembles. Upon moving to New York, he used those experiences and resulting contacts to quickly hook into the burgeoning loft jazz scene in the city. Among his early colleagues were bassist William Parker and drummer Rashid Bakr, who were making names for themselves in similar fashion.

The first disc in the box comprises the 1977 LP First Feeding and finds the three men in augmented quintet formation with the addition of enigmatic pianist Mark Hennen and the equally obscure Arthur Williams on trumpet. Recorded in a studio, the sound is sharp, though the presence of vinyl sourcing remains audible in places. The group investigates three pieces, cumulatively dedicated to mentors like Taylor, Sam Rivers, Bill Dixon and others.

The set’s three pieces range from the relative brevity of the opening title invocation to the closing sprawl of “ Theme for Milford (Mr. Body and Soul). ” The middle piece, “ Flight (From the Yellow Dog), ” takes flight on a soaring theme hauntingly similar to Moondoc’s much later-composed “ You Let Me into Your Life. ” What’s most striking is how the music mirrors what’s come after; there’s a “ hear it here ” first feel to how the four approach collective improvisation, assimilating the advances of Taylor and others like Ornette Coleman. Musicians in the idiom have been doing it ever since with varying degrees of originality and success.

Of the five players, it’s curiously Hennen who makes the strongest impression. His, by turns ruminative and forceful, suggests an oblique amalgam of Paul Bley and Taylor. Bakr works in both momentum and color, acting as co-conspirator in steering the ebb and flow. Williams makes for a spirited partner with Moondoc on the front line, the two sparring like dueling ptarmigans or wheeling off in airborne acrobatics. Parker’s shining moment comes with an extended bass solo in the final piece, where he practically turns his instrument into firewood with chopping fingers and bow. Together, the five whip quite a glorious controlled racket.

Roughly two years later, Moondoc booked a revamped Muntu crew for a gig at Saint Mark’s Church, the venue of numerous subsequent free jazz performances, including several incarnations of the venerated Vision Festival. Roy Campbell replaces Williams and the piano chair remains vacant. Titled Night of the Bluemen, the subsequent LP split the performance into two halves. The title piece carries the qualifier “ Part 3 ” prompting the natural question, what of parts one and two?

Sound is a shade cavernous by comparison thanks to the vaulted ceilings of the venue, and Parker suffers most, his furious pizzicato frequently reduced to a muddy aural blur in the ensemble sections. He makes up for it in an arco solo clearly audible in its string-abrading ferocity, spurred by ebullient shouts of encouragement from his employer. The other players are relatively well-served; Moondoc and Campbell are in especially vociferous moods, dancing, darting and diving amidst the churning, surging waves of rhythm. Side B’s “ Theme for Diane ” traces contrastive ballad contours with comparable passion and cohesiveness.

Flipping the page back to Muntu in its relative infancy, the third disc’s live shot from Ali’s Alley comprises another rendering of “ Theme for Milford ” in a single 36 ½-minute slab of largely improvised interplay. Fidelity again is far from perfect, but more than passable. The thrill of hearing the three core members hold forth at one of the pillars of the loft jazz community effectively excuses the somewhat distant positioning of Parker and Bakr in the 35-year-old mix. Moondoc’s mercurial alto sings front and center, reeling off eliding melodic variations against the undulating accompaniment of his partners that occasionally slip in focus but largely stay on point for a full 15-plus minutes. Parker and Bakr occupy much of the remainder of the piece with statements of their own, the latter devising inventive things with what sounds like woodblocks and other ancillary percussion. The modest applause at the end illustrates that times were tough even back then when it came to audience size for these sorts of gigs.

Muntu suffered a crushing setback as an ensemble when Cecil Taylor ostensibly wooed Parker and Bakr away to fill slots in a new trio. With hindsight, its hard to blame the two men for jumping ship after weighing the prospect and Moondoc doesn’t appear to have harbored any lasting ire, having worked with both men, particularly Parker, in the intervening years. Results of their auspicious meetings are still readily available on labels like Eremite and Cadence Jazz, but Moondoc’s been mostly silent (at least on record) for some time. The arrival of this important and opportune box set will hopefully foster resurgence in attention toward his art and motivate new music-making in the process.

Dusted Reviews,  date: Feb. 5, 2010


By the way, this is my 200th post.

Links in Comments!


  1. JEMEEL MOONDOC – Muntu Recordings - 3CD Box, 1975/’77/’79 (2009)



  2. This looks awesome Vitko! I have a Soulnote release by Moondoc and that is all! Congrats on 200 . . . many thanks from Tejas!

  3. I have two Eremite releases by Moondoc. Very good.
    Thanks Vitko!

  4. If you are reading this and you HAVEN'T said hello to Vitko I have one question for you . . . WHY NOT?!? If you like to listen to this music then you are part of a rather small group of individuals in this big wide world who appreciate this music. Without Vitko and others most of us would be lost as we bounce from form to form looking for interesting Avant guard. It only takes a minute to say thanks and you will feel good about yourself AND be part of the global jazz community. How about it folks? Vitko has posted over 200 delightful opportunities to hear amazing music. Speak up friends! Give it a try. S. Moon Texas USA

  5. Hi Steve,

    You are indeed a true friend. These your words tell me that I have found a good path to yours, for me from Europe, very remote Texas. I thank you for your support and wish you all the best.
    And Texans are playing well, " The Definistration Unit" improv band from Houston, are living proof of this claim. For you, a little gift:

    Live gig, psychedelic free jazz from Houston, Tx.

    The DEFENESTRATION UNIT recorded live at Last Concert Cafe, 6 / 7 / 2008

    Charlie Naked, Mike Switzer, Joe Folladori, Ryan Goodland, Tom Zermeno, and Kirk Suddreath

    MP3@320 - MediaFire:


    1. Thanks so much Vitko! Your Dennis Gonzalez posts always give me a charge as he is a Texan from Dallas. There are two older silkheart releases I would love to hear . . . one called Debenge, Debenge and the other (named after his son?) Stefan. Stefan happens to be something of a nickname for me as well. Thanks for your personal gift! I will enjoy it and share it here in Texas.

    2. Hi Steve.

      This is for you:

      Dennis Gonzalez New Dallas Quartt - Stefan

      Enjoy it!

    3. Oh Vitko!!!! MANY MANY THANKS! This is Awesome. Dennis is the man in Texas free Jazz for me. Thanks again so much!

    4. Vitko, I must comment further on Stefan. This album cover photo is awesome with the Dallas skyline & giant Godzilla instruments!The tower with the ball top is called Reunion. It is real. Also, the personnel is awesome! Henry Franklin, John Purcell AND Malachi Favors. [the last of AEOC fame!] This is really fine. The sound is just really good as well. Thanks again for this gem! As for Stefan Gonzalez . . . since this was recorded in 1986 he must have been a really little fellow at the time. Aaron [bass player] is the older of the two I believe. Can you imagine? Playing horn with your two kinds on bass and drums? My son plays trumpet and I like to dink around on my kit as he does so.

    5. OH GOD!!! I just realized that URI sent the Stefan post to me! Thanks URI! You have also been one carrying the torch for me to see the jazz light. Sorry about the confusion! Should have read a little closer! I was just so excited to see this RARE treat!

    6. Thanks Uri,
      I was just about to inform Steve that he would soon get album"Debenge-Debenge", and I do not have "Stefan" but, I have Dennis Gonzalez New Dallas Sextet "Namesake" from the same year. Great, you did a good job.
      Uri, all the best.

    7. Hey Vitko . . . I have Namesake. That one has even more of the AACM membership on it including Ewart. GREAT album to share. You and Uri have made an otherwise dreary Monday quite memorable for me. Thanks again to you both!

    8. Wow, this was a trip to see! I was in The Defenestration Unit. Nice to see someone out there found our stuff.

  6. This looks awesome! Another new discovery courtesy of Different Perspectives! Thanks, John

  7. Thanks Vitko, I didn't hear this Moondoc's work before.

  8. Big thanks to Vitko for this share! And special thanks to Uri, for his share of Dennis Gonzalez's album, and for letting me download it! Cheers!

  9. Thanks Vitko! great box, but also thanks for the DEFENESTRATION UNIT link, new to me.

  10. Muchas gracias, hace tiempo que queria comprar este box set, pero siempre han faltado los dolares, por fin lo tengo y estoy agradecido.

  11. An old friend found an lp of Ensemble Muntu for a buck in a thrift store. Lucky fucker! Thanks as always for sharing yr exquisite taste with us all.