ANGEL FACE

JazzTimes Album Review By Larry Reni Thomas - 07/20/11

The master musician, drummer Alphonse Mouzon ’s latest recording, Angel Face (Tenacious) is a wonderful, bouncy, happy-feeling, swinging set of originals. It clearly shows that the extremely talented veteran, who has played with Miles Davis and Weather Report, is a serious composer in his own right, and that he keeps the right company, with all-stars on this date that include pianists, Kenny Barron and Cedar Walton, and horn men, sax man Ernie Watts and trumpeter Wallace Roney. The supreme, much-in-demand bass player, Christian McBride is also on most of the selections. Mouzon picked the perfect group to give the CD its bright, summer-time, straight-ahead groove that Mouzon directs like a maestro on every tune. His drumming is not only the time piece and the keeper of the beat, but, it is as Art Blakey was always fond of saying, the drummer is “the director” of the entire sound of the band.

Mouzon named the album for his daughter, Emma Alexandra Mouzon, whose photo is featured on the cover, and whose voice is featured on “Stepping Stone,” the strongest cut on the CD. Alphonse really shows off on his tune. His tasty, driving licks, set the stage for serious soulful, splashing solos from pianist Kenny Barron and for outstanding, distinct solos from the Ernie Watts, blowing as if he there was no tomorrow. Watts sounds very nice throughout the entire recording, but, it is on “Stepping Stone” that he shines and it is evident that that boost came from Mouzon being in that swinging pocket.

“Angel Face,” the title tune, has a catchy melody that lingers long after the CD is finished. It proves that the music is all about tradition and making music that the listener has to enjoy and find pleasing to the ear. Simplicity is the theme with this mellow, sweet selection which features the superb playing, on a muted trumpet, by Wallace Roney, who is also showcased on another Mouzon melodic one, aptly, called “More Miles In The Sky.” Other noteworthy titles, include the swift-moving, “Harlem Blues” and the earthy “Whatever.”

Mouzon ’s tunes are mostly upbeat and tend not to slow down. They also seem to tell a story about how determination and strong will always prevail. In the liner notes, the drummer said that the recording took eleven (11) years to make and that it was a “Labor of Love” (another title on “Angel Face”). It is obvious that this is an album that came from the heart and that the musicians worked as a unit, family for the love of jazz and mostly, for the love of Mr. Mouzon. This delight was worth waiting eleven years for because it brings joy to the heart, the ears to hear such stellar performances from these seasoned musicians.

It's just too bad the album didn’t have a slow tempo, ballad. All of the soloists are fine balladeers. It would have been an added treat, like a cheery on top of a sundae, to have had them do a slow one or two. But, that’s for the next album, or maybe, not. Either way, Mouzon has a vibrant, colorful survivor story to tell and we, the listeners, are very fortunate to have him share that exciting evolving saga with us.

 

Angel Face
(Tenacious Records #9216-2, 2011 USA)

Alphonse Mouzon's career as a drummer, composer, arranger, producer, actor, multi-instrumentalist, playing jazz, fusion, disco, funk, pop, or rock has delighted generations of fans all over the world, since the time when he was at the forefront of the jazz fusion movement.
As his impressive discography already proved it, his creative drive and audacity didn't slow down over the years, and "Angel Face” turns out to be another compelling proof of his qualities.

This time he is surrounded by a selected group of jazz personalities well connected with his vision and skills, displaying an impeccable showcase of artistic prowess.

As composer and arranger of all 14 pieces, Alphonse Mouzon directed this dream band with care for details and cohesiveness, giving musicians the partitions that value most their stylistic traits, making sure that their distinguished personalities blend in full power in a united stream.

Working on this foundation, the band puts all its virtuosic spontaneity on display, with Mouzon controlling the overall direction and dynamic, while boldly maneuvering between enthusiastic beats and warmer, soft touches, always showing his natural musicality, propelling forward yet leaving enough space for free improvisational adventures. At his side, we hear master bassists Darek Oleszkiewicz and Christian McBride, accenting details and passages with their trade-marked agility and subtlety.

The common denominator of this solid performance is the irresistible melodic swing flowing throughout, starting with the remarkably animated "Harlem Blues", featuring Cedar Walton on piano and Don Menza on sax. Arturo Sandoval is drawing attention like a magnet, his magic trumpet can also be heard on "Birds on a Wire" and on the whimsical "Blues Clues" here in dialogue with Don Menza on tenor saxophone and Kenny Barron on piano.

The graceful "A Labor of Love" introduces veterans Bob Mintzer and Wallace Roney, the latter bringing echoes of Miles Davis on "More Miles in the Sky". Memorable is also the smiling elegant melody of the "Angel Face" with trumpet and tenor sax in perfect fusion.

The album is rich in other pleasant surprises: "Stepping Stone" a dazzling fresh melody with springy harmony vocals , courtesy of Emma Alexandra Mouzon, while Mouzon himself is at the piano on "I Wonder Why" and "Whatever" , opening rhythmic colorful avenues in close harmony with trumpet and saxophones. Shunzo Ohno's sunny trumpet takes the front stage on the danceable "Night Walker", then the pace is growing faster on "Never Say Never" where Alphonse Mouzon plays a deep and tender trumpet just before going on an explosive drum solo full of vitality on "Canopus Octopus".

The album contains alternates version of "Whatever"(with Henry “The Skipper” Franklin on bass) and "Angel Face" with a nice soft tonality of strings weaved by Mouzon.

As a whole, the perfect balance and proportioning of themes, gives “Angel Face” a classical aura of a major work of refined straight-ahead jazz that will please the most sophisticated ears, and takes a definite top place among what Alphonse Mouzon has created so far. By Stephen Bocioaca at http://jazzworldquest.com/alphonse_mouzon.html

 

 

Album Review: Angel Face
Alphonse Mouzon
(Tenacious)

by A. Scott Galloway

In a musical universe obsessed with guitars and saxes, it’s sometimes a challenge for a drummer to get a little respect. Alphonse Mouzon has gotten his as much for his playing as for his acumen as a renegade independent record label owner (Tenacious Records), the original drummer of fusion pioneers Weather Report and for a four decade string of eclectic jazz recordings as a leader that swing from inside to outside and all the spaces in between (not to mention his colorful fashion sense). Mouzon’s latest CD, Angel Face (dedicated to his daughter Emma who graces the cover and is a featured as a sweet vocal presence on one tune) is perhaps his most straight ahead date to date. It features an impressive collection of cats and all 14 of the songs (two alternate takes) were written by Mouzon - most in the blues bop vein of the late `50s and `60s. Think Nat & Cannon, Miles and meat-n-potatoes Blue Note.

Mouzon’s writing is elementary and economical – simple memorable heads that open into cookin’ grooves for the soloists to leave indelible impressions. It’s the kind of CD that keeps toes tapping from start to finish and will have your company swearing you pulled it down from the vintage shelf. Highlights include “More Miles in The Sky” featuring Wallace Roney on muted trumpet, “Bird on a Wire” with some impressive blowing from trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, “Stepping Stone” featuring Emma Alexandra Mouzon singing the title/hook – 8x overdubbed at ages 5, 12 and 13 – the Coltrane/Tyner-esque “Whatever” with Mouzon on piano AND drums, Derek Oles on bass and Wallace & Antoine Roney on trumpet and tenor, the cool swing of “Night Walker” featuring Ernie Watts on tenor, Shunzo Ono (Al’s old Eleventh House band mate) on trumpet and Cedar Walton on piano, and a signature solo drum interlude by Mouzon touting his drum line: “Canopus Octopus!” Mouzon even sits in within the trumpet section for the light swing of “Never Say Never.” The two alternate takes are novel given that Mouzon gets to have his cake and eat it too by switching up the saxophonist and/or bassist on the tracks. The remaining cats are Kenny Barron, Don Menza, Christian McBride, Charles Owens, Bob Mintzer and Henry “Skipper” Franklin.

Satisfying like a favorite meal you’ve had hundreds of times only this time from a surprising new source, Alphonse Mouzon’s Angel Face is a satiating banquet of bop. Bon Appetit.

A. Scott Galloway
May 13, 2011
The Urban Music Scene


Something Else! Interview: Jazz drumming legend Alphonse Mouzon -Posted by Nick DeRiso

 

In his colorful and wide-ranging career, Alphonse Mouzon has long been considered one of the most skilled and versatile drummers in the music business. He was a member of the original version of Weather Report and Larry Coryell's Eleventh House, and worked with Gil Evans, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis (the Dingo album), Jean-Luc Ponty (a recent tour of Europe) and countless others. Mouzon has led a couple of dozen of his own albums (many for his Tenacious label), ranging from funk to fusion, smooth to straight ahead. Yet it is doubtful that he has ever spent as much time on a project as on Angel Face, which took him 11 years to complete.

 

“I'm very much a perfectionist and, even though it's impossible to get things absolutely perfect, I wanted this special project to be as close to perfect as possible,” says Mouzon. “I'd mix a song, put it away, come back to it, want to remix it, and change something. It went on for quite awhile.”

One listen to the music on Angel Face and it becomes immediately apparent that it was all worth it. The drummer wrote and arranged all of the songs and gathered together a summit of musical giants, 14 in all including Mouzon. “I look for individuality and what the players have to bring to the music. It is like finding the right actor for the right part with me being a casting director.” On Angel Face, the cast is impeccable, sounding inspired both by the material and the opportunity to play with each other.

Angel Face begins with the blazing “Harlem Blues,” an up-tempo piece based on a similar riff that Alphonse heard his sons Jean-Pierre and Alphonse Philippe play one day when they were in high school. “Cedar Walton is a legend, Don Menza who I've known for 30 years was always a fireball, Christian McBride is a genius on the bass, and Arturo Sandoval is simply amazing.” The musicians all live up to their reputations with Sandoval making the impossible sound effortless and Mouzon enjoying himself in the drivers' seat. The same quintet is featured on the hard-driving “Birds On A Wire.”

“A Labor Of Love” has Mouzon and Walton joined by three other masters. “I knew that Wallace Roney's amazing muted trumpet sound would perfectly fit this piece. Bob Mintzer also had what I was looking for in his tone and awesome playing. Derek Oleszkiewicz has a deep sound and is a brilliant player. As for Cedar Walton, his riffing behind the soloists is wonderful to hear just by itself.” “A Labor Of Love” could have been the name of the album for it is obvious that a lot of love went into the music. Roney's bluesy solo contrasts with Mintzer's muscular style on a memorable song which could have been a Blue Note classic from the mid-60s.

“More Miles In The Sky” has the masterful pianist Kenny Barron and tenor-saxophonist Charlie Owens (who was also on Miles Davis' Dingo album) performing with Roney and Oleszkiewicz in the quintet. This light but driving piece recalls Miles Davis' group of the Milestones era. “Blues Clues” is named after the children's show “Blue's Clues” which Alphonse used to watch with his daughter. Sandoval and Menza take brief but fiery solos.

“Angel Face,” which is heard in two versions with different saxophonists (the always passionate Ernie Watts and Bob Mintzer), is a cheerful tribute to Alphonse Mouzon's daughter Emma Alexandra. “From birth, she always knew to smile at the camera.” It is one of several songs on this CD that could catch on as a standard in the future if it is heard and adopted by other musicians.

“Stepping Stone” is also inspired by Emma Alexandra Mouzon. She recorded her vocal parts when she was five, adding additional harmonies when she was 12 and 13, resulting in eight voices that are used on a modal piece which has powerful statements from Roney, Watts and Barron. On the likable and somewhat wistful “I Wonder Why” and the John Coltrane-inspired “Whatever,” Alphonse Mouzon makes rare appearances on piano. On “I Wonder Why,” he comps behind Roney and Mintzer in the style of Cedar Walton while the passionate “Whatever” with Roney and his brother tenor-saxophonist Antoine Roney finds Mouzon effectively emulating McCoy Tyner. The alternate version of “Whatever” features Ernie Watts and the fine bassist Henry “The Skipper” Franklin.

“Night Walker” has a role for Shunzo Ohno, a major trumpeter from Japan who played in The Eleventh House with Mouzon and Larry Coryell. “Never Say Never” contains a real surprise for it features Alphonse Mouzon on trumpet playing the melody with Don Menza. “I’m self-taught and have played trumpet since I was with McCoy Tyner,. I also learned some things while on tour from trumpeter Randy Brecker.” Mouzon's trumpet solo on the blues works quite well with the great solos from Don Menza, Kenny Barron and Christian McBride. “Canopus Octopus,” named after the great sounding Canopus drums that he has played since touring Japan in 2008, is a brief unaccompanied display by the drummer before Angel Face concludes with the alternate version of “Whatever.”

In recent times Alphonse Mouzon has toured, written music, produced albums, acted, begun writing his memoirs, and started gathering together his originals which will be published as songbooks. Fortunately he took time out to complete Angel Face, his finest straight ahead jazz recording and a major achievement in a very busy musical life

Scott Yanow, author of ten books including The Jazz Singers, Trumpet Kings, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76

 

In his colorful and wide-ranging career, Alphonse Mouzon has long been considered one of the most skilled and versatile drummers in the music business. He was a member of the original version of Weather Report and Larry Coryell's Eleventh House, and worked with Gil Evans, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis (the Dingo album), Jean-Luc Ponty (a recent tour of Europe) and countless others. Mouzon has led a couple of dozen of his own albums (many for his Tenacious label), ranging from funk to fusion, smooth to straight ahead. Yet it is doubtful that he has ever spent as much time on a project as on Angel Face, which took him 11 years to complete.

One listen to the music on Angel Face and it becomes immediately apparent that it was all worth it. The drummer wrote and arranged all of the songs and gathered together a summit of musical giants, 14 in all including Mouzon. "I look for individuality and what the players have to bring to the music. It is like finding the right actor for the right part with me being a casting director". On Angel Face, the cast is impeccable, sounding inspired both by the material and the opportunity to play with each other.

 

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