Monday, February 05, 2007

Black History Month: Moto Grosso Feio

Black History Month turns bitter cold as the temperatures in Baltimore are considerably lower than HurdAudio has felt in some time. All the more reason to warm the ears to the almost tropical sounds of Moto Grosso Feio by Wayne Shorter - recorded in 1970.

Wayne Shorter - tenor sax/soprano sax
Chick Corea - marimba/drums/percussion
Ron Carter - Cello/bass
John McLaughlin - 12-string guitar
Dave Holland - acoustic guitar/bass
Michelin Prell - drums/percussion

There's an unusual lightness to this playing as nearly every one of these master improvisers is playing an unfamiliar instrument. Chick Corea on percussion? An all acoustic John McLaughlin? Dave Holland on guitar? And yet these Wayne Shorter compositions and melodic lines are unmistakable. It's an unusual hue - but an exquisite sound that reveals more beauty with each successive listening. The sonic texture contains a surprising number of layers that drift along in a near harmolodic haze.

"Montezuma" is a highlight on this one with its driving, melodic ostinato bass line that lurks and winds under a sometimes thick overall sound. There are so many details - so many moving parts. It sweeps along like a babbling stream with a surprisingly strong current.

Another track where all the parts really come together is "Iska." Each improviser is given plenty of freedom to build upon the texture as gesture upon gesture is piled on. And yet the overall sound never becomes too thick. One can pick out the rippling marimba lines, the natural harmonics on the bass and the glissandi on the guitar strings. And through it all Wayne Shorter shows incredible instinct as he adds just enough of his own sound to draw the ears in deeper as the entire group continues to escalate the overall energy level. This is some outstanding group improvisation.

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