Nearly 30 years and several pounds ago, drummer Alphonse Mouzon was the hottest, slickest, stylingest mack daddy on the early fusion scene. On the fashion tip, who could forget those floor-length fur coats, outrageous hats and audacious platform shoes that he sported with Larry Coryell & The Eleventh House in the mid-’70s. And few could deny the sheer power of his frenetic drumming, whether it was in the service of Roy Ayers (1970-1971), Weather Report (1971-1972), McCoy Tyner (1972) or The Eleventh House (1973-1975).
While both his slinky frame and super-fly fashion sense are now ancient history, Mouzon is still supplying plenty of signature sizzle behind the kit, as he so forcefully demonstrates on Live in Hollywood (Tenacious). A document of one smokin’ night with his working quintet at the now-defunct Baked Potato, it features strong ensemble playing and solo contributions from Sal Marquez on trumpet, Chuck Manning on tenor sax, David Goldblatt on acoustic piano and Dave Enos on acoustic bass. But through the indomitable force of his dynamic presence on the kit, Mouzon is the real star here.
Leading this acoustic jazz quintet is just one of the many hats that Mouzon wears these days as player, bandleader, producer and head of his own aptly named Tenacious Records label. He also fronts an all-star smooth-jazz group comprised of Eric Marienthal on sax, Dan Siegel on keyboards, Spencer Bean on guitar and Andrew Ford on bass which recently headlined the first annual Hollywood Park Casino Smooth Jazz Festival. Says Mouzon, “That’s what I’m known for around L.A., the smooth jazz. But you won’t hear any smooth jazz played on this Live in Hollywood. That’s for sure.”
From his high-energy attack on the opener “The Baker’s Daughter” to his propulsive pulse on “Poobli,” from his swinging exuberance on “All That Jazz” and “Anticipation” to a remake of his old Eleventh House composition “The Funky Waltz,” Mouzon acquits himself with power, panache and aplomb on Live in Hollywood.
Mouzon also appears as a sideman on two recently reissued CDs that were both originally recorded in 1971 for Atlantic Records: the super funky Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse, a kind of socio-political concept album by the singer-songwriter Eugene McDaniels (composer of the classic “Compared to What” from Les McCann’s Swiss Movement and “Feel Like Making Love” for Roberta Flack) and Les McCann’s highly adventurous Invitation to Openness, featuring Yusef Lateef, David Spinozza, Cornell Dupree and the two-drum tandem of Mouzon and Bernard Purdie.
Upcoming recordings on Mouzon’s Tenacious Records include Live in Bel Air, with his working quartet, and Angel Face, dedicated to his daughter Emma Alexandra and featuring guest appearances from pianists Cedar Walton and Kenny Barron, bassists Christian McBride and Bob Hurst, trumpeters Arturo Sandoval and Wallace Roney, saxophonists Michael Brecker, Ernie Watts, Don Menza and Antoine Roney. The latter recording also features the multifaceted Mouzon playing trumpet and piano as well as drums. On the smooth-jazz side of things is an upcoming all-star project entitled Smooth Silk featuring guitarists Larry Coryell, Chuck Loeb, Jeff Golub, Paul Jackson Jr., Jeff Richman and Julian Coryell along with saxophonists Warren Hill, Paul Taylor, Nelson Rangell and Richard Elliot. On the two studio recordings, Mouzon also plays keyboards, flute and trumpet as well as drums. “I play alto sax, too,” says the multi-instrumentalist, “but I’m much better on trumpet.”
Meanwhile, the prolific player-producer is readying the re-release of his early ’70s recordings on Blue Note—1973’s The Essence of Mystery, 1974’s Funky Snakefoot, 1975’s Mind Transplant and 1976’s The Man Incognito—all of which he plans to remix in surround sound (as soon as Capitol can locate the missing multitrack tapes).
“I don’t want to be stuck in one category—fusion,” says the 53-year-old drummer who also explored dance music in the ’80s with the commercially successful group Poussez. “I like all kinds of music. And whether I’m playing in a smooth-jazz, straightahead, fusion or R&B setting, I still play with intensity and energy.”
The evidence is clear on Live in Hollywood.
Alphonse Mouzon Quintet
"Live In Hollywood" (Tenacious Records 9213-2)
Jazz Arts Foundation - October 2001 (edited version)
Ron (Dr. Jazz) Allen
This lucky 13th release by drummer/composer/arranger/band leader Mouzon is sure to please all jazz fans.
Joining Alphonse is an all-star Line-up including Sal Marquez - trumpet & flugelhorn (played with the
GRP Big Band, Dave Grusin, The Tonight Show Band with Branford Marsalis, and Frank Zappa); Chuck Manning- tenor saxophone (is a member of The L.A. Jazz Quartet and has played with Larry Koonse); David Goldblatt - acoustic piano (played with Mark Isham, John Patitucci, Dizzy Gilespie, Gino Vanelli, Diano Ross, Sheena Easton, Roberta Flack and Stephen Stills); & Dave Enos - acoustic bass (played with Arturo Sanoval, David Benoit, Brian Bromberg, Rob Mullins and Don Rader).
When asked how he decided on the tunes for the CD, Alphonse replied "There was a lot of thought going into the selection of the songs and the straightahead arrangements of the songs on "Live In Hollywood". All of the compositions were once recorded as smooth jazz music for the radio format, which were never sent to straightahead jazz radio stations. I remember my friend and erstwhile band leader Herbie Hancock's CD "New Standard", in which he re-arranged pop songs and made them sound like straightahead Jazz tunes. That gave me the idea of re-arranging my pop/smooth jazz tunes to sound like straightahead jazz compositions. Mouzon continued, "I'm very pleased with the way "Live In Hollywood" turned out and the way the musicians interpret my music. I normally send everyone lead sheets and CDs of the music I want to perform in concert and then leave it up to the musicians to do their homework (i.e. listening to the CDs and going over the lead sheets) in their spare time weeks before the concert. I also send each musician a set list that indicates who is soloing or not soloing on a song. That's how I operate and it seems to be working. Praise God for that!!"
I can say for a fact that Alphonse's method works extremely well, and after giving this new release a listen, I am sure you will be in full agreement. The Arrangements work to perfection so much that no matter what your jazz tastes are - you will fully enjoy "Live In Hollywood."
Alphonse Mouzon Quintet
"Live In Hollywood" (Tenacious Records 9213-2)
L.A. Jazz Scene - September 2001 (edited version)
Alphonse Mouzon, whose early associations included Roy Ayers (1969), Weather Report (1970-71), McCoy Tyner (1971-72) and Larry Coryell's Eleventh House (1973-1975), has been based for many years in Los Angeles. Although he gained some of his original fame for his playing in funk and fusion settings, Mouzon is quite flexible and sounds at home in straightahead jazz bands too.
His well-named Tenacious label has featured Mouzon on 13 CDs thus far. Live In Hollywood, a quintet set with trumpeter Sal Marquez, tenor saxophonist Chuck Manning, pianist David Goldblatt and bassist Dave Enos, is mostly advanced hard bop. Some of the tunes have lightly funky rhythms, many boast catchy melodies and the musicians play up to their potential. It is good to hear Marquez getting away from his earlier dominant Miles Davis influence. Manning generates a lot of heat, Goldblatt has some good solos and Enos is fine in support. The leader is quite explosive in spots, consistently pushing the soloists, and several of his ten originals could possibly become future standards if heard and adopted by enough of his fellow musicians. This is an excellent example of how Alphonse Mouzon's quintet sounded in 1999, and well worth picking up.