Seems like somehow Moe got pretty popular 'round these parts...in three short days The Four Seasons has suddenly become the single-most downloaded file here at Soundological. Not sure if it's based on the strength of the preview track or if there was another factor involved but this kind of take rate is completely unprecedented. Perhaps it's just Moe's fans coming out of the woodwork or it's due to the original popularity of the album on its release? Whatever the reason, it's a good thing one of the few pre-prepped LPs I had ready is another Koffman/Riley collaboration: Master Suite.
It's the follow-up to The Four Seasons and completes MK's hat-trick of concept albums covering classical material in a jazz-fusion style. This time he departs from spotlighting a single composer and instead he spreads the flutey love around to a variety of well-known pieces from assorted classical masters. As you can see in the AMG review below, Moe doesn't really get much recognition from the music journos, mostly due to what could be called chronic run-of-the-mill "critic snootiness" but it must be said this is not as strong an outing as his Vivaldi reworking from the previous year. While Mr. Allan is a bit dismissive of the effort in toto, there's a lot of truth in his assessment of the familiar melodies' tendancy to over-shadow the proceedings.
If you had a chance to read the review of The Four Seasons in the previous post, you'll likely find it kind of ironic that most of the chastising it received for being a failed "prog" piece is actually more applicable in this intance. While there are some high points such as the waltz-time "Anitra's Dance," the softly hypnotic "Syrinx" and some of the stronger segments of "Suite Fantastique," there are also duds like "Cavern of the Mountain Trolls," an ill-conceived mish-mash of hackneyed progrock idioms; "Theme from Orpheus," which sounds like a whiter shade of a pale Procol Harum; and "Morning Mist," which comes off as categorically cheesy because it just can't jettison the melodic baggage of the original composition.
In many cases, even the exceptional technical proficiency displayed by supporting regulars Riley, Bickert, Thomspon and Clarke aren't enough to elevate the tunes above a cheap gimmickery and the copious free-jazz flavoured breaks feel unduly tacked on as an afterthought. Where Four Seasons found some sweet grooves and explored the space within the symphonic structure, Master Suite is a disjointed effort that jumps from ubiquitous bits of the classical canon into either spastic improv or bombastic arena-rock and then back again with little apparent rhyme or reason. Thankfully Moe recognised a dead end and this release rightfully signals the cessation of his reliance on the classical-jazz-rock-fusion crutch he'd been leaning on for a few years and prompted him to explore more freeform avenues while staying grounded in his swing & hard bop roots.
AMG Review by Mark Allan Unlike most 1970s fusion experiments, this one wedded jazz and some rock to classical. The problem is that the melodies inspired by Mozart, Grieg, Debussy, Berlioz, Bartok, and Gluck far outshine the jazz-rock middle sections by the Canadian flutist and his accompaniment. If this record was a real marriage, it would last six months.
Moe Koffman - Flute, Bass Flute, Piccolo Doug Riley - Keyboards Don Thompson - Acoustic & Electric Bass Terry Clarke - Drums Michael Craden - Percussion Sandra Watts - Oboe Ed Bickert - Guitar (1,4,8) Terry Bush - Guitar (3,5,6,8) D. Long - Rhythm Guitar (3)
1 Morning Mist 2 Anitra's Last Dance 3 Cavern of the Mountain Trolls 4 Intermezzo 5 The from Orpheus 6 Mozart's Ark 7 Syrinx 8 Suite Fantastique (Reveries/Witches Sabbath/March to the Scaffold)
Suiten your pot with SoundologicalHERE or HERE and if you're looking for mo' better Moe be sure to check out his discography post on SI as well.