The Spirit Of Studs Terkel, Expressed in Jazz
Chicago Tribune - January 25, 2011
It takes a brave soul – or a foolhardy one – to create an extended jazz suite inspired by the writings of Studs Terkel, one of Chicago's most admired authors. Comparisons are likely to ensue, after all.
When the composer in question is all of 24 years old, the venture seems particularly cheeky.
Yet pianist Josh Moshier pulled it off Monday night at the Chicago Cultural Center, his new opus evoking Terkel's work in extraordinarily subtle ways. More important, the world premiere of Moshier's "The Studs Terkel Project" – commissioned by Chamber Music America – clearly represents a significant leap forward for Moshier and the quintet he leads with saxophonist Mike Lebrun.
More important, "The Studs Terkel Project" unfolded as a work of considerable lyric grace and compositional forethought. Not surprisingly, it hinged on dialogues among the players, as if recalling the conversations that were at the core of Terkel's writings and radio interviews. Give-and-take was everything to Terkel, and Moshier borrowed the technique for his magnum opus, which ran about 25 minutes.
Musical conversation, of course, is central to the art of jazz itself, which helps explain why Terkel was smitten with this art form. Moshier emphasized the point throughout his suite, which was built on several vignettes performed without pause.
All About Jazz - November 17, 2009
The Millennials are here.
Keyboardist Josh Moshier and saxophonist Michael Lebrun, a pair of Chicago-based jazz artists born in the 1980s, delve deeply into the jazz world with Joy Not Jaded. On this fine, high-energy set, the pair and their band craft a modern-leaning sound that remains true to the post-bop tradition.
The set of all original material—five tunes from Moshier's pen, six from Lebrun's—opens with Moshier's "King's Road," inspired by night drives on Los Angeles freeways (night being the only time any forward momentum can be achieved there). A repeated five-note piano riff introduces the sound that rolls into a smooth-flowing groove supporting Lebrun's round-tone tenor sax. "Finally Done, Still Frustrated," meanwhile, is a showcase of the band's ability with a beautifully reflective ballad.
A fellow Chicagoan, guitarist John Moulder, joins the core group on Lebrun's "Jambo" (the Swahili word for hello), shaping an ebullient, upbeat ensemble dance vibe that gives way to an introspective sax turn. "Eleven Toe Waggle" slips back and forth between two different grooves, in and out of shadows and dappled sunlight, with another nice Moulder contribution.
"Avocado Soul" (go figure on the title choice) features the group at its tightest, with Lebrun's sax sounding especially fiery in front of Moshier's electric keyboard and a group sound that shifts between grungy and sparkling. Call it sparkling grunge. "Known Unknowns" could be called garage jazz, with Moshier's electric keyboard sounding a lot like a Hammond B3 organ, even though it's not.
Joy Not Jaded, recorded in 2009, says that the so-called Millennial generation to which Moshier and Lebrun belong is here. The future of jazz is alive and well in this generation's hands.