Though the ensemble emblazons Moring, it's a democratic collective, and that's the key to this extremely satisfying trad/fusion disc. Jack Walrath, a long-time trumpeter on the scene, is co-center along with saxist Tim Armacost, but everyone in the quintet's allowed his head, though even that isn't what's most important. The harmony of the five gents is what makes the nonet of long cuts an organic cohesion brimming with infectious pulses, grooves, and exhilarations. Steve Allee is the true epicenter, acting in a somewhat Zawinul-ish capacity to matrix his band-mates, often in a form of secondary rhythm section, the primary duet being the usual bass and drums swinging without ever taking undue attention, perfectly indexed.
The alchemy, however, lies in how tight, tight, TIGHT this band is. Not a moment goes by in less than top shape, even in the hazily balladic Deep Blue, where an elastic ambience finds the boys quaaluded but happily punching up the solo spots in grinningly tequila'ed slidezones. Moring's no greenhorn, having played beneath Tormé, Coryell, Bartz, and a galaxy of others, and the cat knew just what he was doing when he got this second incarnation of Way Out East together. Frankly, it's a good deal more beautifully and intellectually informed as fusion than recent-ish groups like Vertu, which itself was quite quite good. The foundation here is so heavy with true jazz yet vivaciously light, and thus the genre core is magnified in every bar with only the distantest allusions to any part of rock. The abstraction in Snakes! even captures aspects of the form's farflung frontiers, capering into Paul Bley / Steve Lacy terrain.
I've been familiar with Walrath, the guy has a pedigree and has appeared in more than a few sessions with such diverse names as Miles Davis, Sam Rivers, and Elvis Costello, but this, for me, is his best incarnation yet. At times, he and Armacost even form a two-man big band, condensing the style's trademark blare and melodicism down into just a pair of axes in side quotes. Then catch that Milesy muted solo in Mary Lynn to see how tuned up Walrath's solo voice is. Underneath it all, Steve Johns' drums are deceptive. As the guy's not a stuntman, the listener is richly rewarded when listening absorptively, 'cause the colorations and percussive conversations are highly nuanced. But then, every player here is at the top of his game, and the entire CD comes off as a 100%-er. What more could you ask?
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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