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Published: 2003/07/28
by Jesse Jarnow

Love Animal – Bob MosesDrummingbirds – Bob Moses/Billy Martin

Amulet Records 011
Amulet Records 010
"There is a basic flaw in the thinking of many people who believe that
liking something justifies and entitles on to take and use it as you
please," drummer Rakalam Bob Moses once wrote. "This thinking
is what enabled the first colonialists to come to the ‘new-world,’ plant a
flag and claim it as their own." Moses was using the argument against a
Boston musician who was presenting an evening of the music of Charles
Mingus, one of Moses’s mentors. For the most part, his arguments were sound,
though a puncture can be made in this instance, one made by the recently
released Love Animal, Moses’s never-issued 1968 debut, put out
finally by Billy Martin’s Amulet Records.
The music on Love Animal is ferocious, delivered by an outfit of now
legendary players — Moses, saxophonist Jim Pepper, guitarist Larry Coryell,
bassist Steve Swallow, and pianist Keith Jarrett (doubling on soprano sax).
It is violently eclectic in a way that only a record made in 1968 can be:
jazz, funk, and rock numbers fusing psychedelically and tied together by
Coryell’s positively nasty guitar tone. If the Mothers of Invention had just
shut up and played their guitars, it mighta sounded like Love Animal.
The point is that they mixed ideas with abandon. In the liner notes, Moses
writes "we were passionate about our B.B. King, Robert Johnson, Marvin Gaye,
Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, The Beatles, The Stones, The
Stones, Bob Dylan, The Band, Mongo Santamaria, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Baretto,
Coltrane, Miles, Mingus, Monk, Bill Evans, Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman,
Eric Dolphy and plenty others." They mixed these ideas because they liked
them, which is where the flaw in Moses’s argument comes.
In covering Jerome Kern’s "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" and pairing it with a
certified fusion freak-out like "Rock Fantasy" they used the concepts as
they pleased — and that’s more than alright ‘cause a.) the music sounded
bitchin’ (to use Frank Zappa’s criteria) and b.) ‘cause – while, yes, as
Moses says, "a being’s life and their music are one and the same" – ideas
are ideas, and that’s how new stuff comes into existence. Like Love
Animal. It’s a mind-bender of an album, certainly of sense for the late
1960s, but perhaps a bit shocking now. It has an awesome presence to it, a
combination of amplifiers and microphones and production techniques that
sound like a technology and world in the midst of explosion. People just
don’t play like this anymore, the meltdown between rock and jazz being so
commonplace now as to be casual. The Love Animal band plays with high
stakes in mind.
Drummingbirds, another recent Moses rerelease, recorded nearly 20
years later, isn’t quite as dramatic. A duet record with a young Billy
Martin, it represents the sound of teacher and student together — an
entirely different kind of dialogue, more Socratic than the barbarians at
the gates of Love Animal. So, it’s not quite as exciting, and it
sounds like the ’80s, taboot — lotsa reverb, monophonic synthesizers,
compression, and the like. The drumming itself is enthralling, though too
processed for its own good. Talking drums bask in echo, chanting voices
squiggling beneath layers of early digi-goop. On the other hand, one can
just as easily dig it as a period piece on the edge of the late ’80s/early
’90s downtown jazz revolution — a necessary step.

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