Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Moe Koffman - Museum Pieces


Museum Pieces

256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from Janus JXS-7073

Preview clip:
Digs (Archaeology)

What's the direct connection to the previous post featuring Hank Crawford? Since Moe avoids the sax entirely, it's the fact Crawford and Koffman regular Doug Riley were past musical directors for Ray Charles; Hank for an extended stint at the start of the 60s and RIley for a short spurt at the end of the same decade. Otherwise, the albums were released within a year of each other and share something in musical sensibilities as well, a fact picked up on by Dusty Groove who mention it in their brief review:
A groovy album of moody electric funk tracks from Moe Koffman -- and probably one of his best records from the 70s! The groove is nice and rolling, with less of the break-oriented sound than you might expect, but still with some very nice mellow, almost CTI-ish moments, thanks to keyboards from Don Thompson.
Not much left unsaid about Moe or this roster of regulars in one of the many posts here on Soundological covering Koffman and Riley. However, out of Moe's oeuvre, it is by far and away the closest to the smooth jazzfunk sound epitomised by Creed Taylor's imprint. More importantly, it pretty much sidesteps the copious cheese slathered upon the albums book-ending this session (Jungle Man before, Things Are Looking Up after) and hits a sweeter spot where groove, technique and studio polish intersect.

A snapshot of many popular trends in jazz during the period, there are a couple adventurous post-bop tunes on hand ("Dinosaurus" & "Wildlife"), some proto-smooth jazz moments ("Pharoah's Dream"), orchestral string-backed slow blues ("Evolution Blues") and a couple outright funkified offerings in the form of Weather Report-style fusion with some drum breaks ("Rocks") and the Mizell-flavoured downtempo funk of "Digs."

Days Gone By (Egyptology)

Based on its use by Jill Scott, you may already be aware of the mellow "Days Gone By (Egyptology)" and though it's not the best track on the record, it's why sample-spotters often snatch this one up on sight. That bite alone is one of the main reasons copies of this album are seldom seen out in the wild, coupled with the fact this is probably Koffman's strongest effort in the latter part of his pop-fusion phase so folks were likely more inclined to keep it in their collections.

Jill Scott's Slowly, Surely & Marc Mac's Visioneers Remix

Featuring prominently on the track is Ed Bickert's crystal clear tone on the guitar. He displays his deft mastery of the instrument throughout the album and for many fans his playing here is a big reason to pick up this set. Though more well-known for his work on bass, Don Thompson's contributions on keyboards (mostly Rhodes) are mainly as an astute accompanist with few solos on the album outside of "Wildlife" and "Days Gone By." Speaking of Ed and Don, this album was released around the same time as their critically acclaimed live duo set, At The Garden Party.

Intro to "Rocks (Mineralogy)"

On "Rocks" it's pretty clear Riley's still crushing on Mwandishi and Head Hunters era Hancock but always with his own bluesy touch thanks to his B-3 background. However, he's all over the map stylistically on his own composition "Dinosaurus", a tune described as "a delightful romp through the harmonic overtone series" which highlights both his skills and his influences (especially Bud Powell and Oscar Peterson) but meanders a bit too much as a result of some kitchen-sinkism.

For the most part Moe keeps it melodic throughout, maintaining his mainstream-oriented style without taking the type of excursions in his solos witnessed on the kosmigroovish Solar Explorations nor straight-up displaying his bebop chops like when he was Live at George's. However, he has a few moments where he lets go a bit and soars high, especially on "Pharoah's Dream" and "Wildlife."

Sometimes a picture doesn't paint a 1000 words
Australian issue [RCA VPL14130]

All in all, an enjoyable album that saw a modicum of critical and chart success here in Canada upon its release (nominated for 2 Juno awards in 1978). Created as a conceptual piece to accompany exhibitions at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto (pictured on the back cover), its main drawback is in replicating the sterile, hands-off environment of most museums to a fairly high degree.

As indicated by the cover art's roped-off skeleton, sarcophagus and caveman mannequin, the music is often dryly academic and tends to be aimed moreso at the head rather than the heart or hooves. However, as also hinted at on the cover, there's just enough howler monkey to keep things lively and nobody is placed on a pedestal so it stands as cohesive communal effort among some of Canada's A-list jazzbos of the late 70s.

Moe Koffman - Flute
Ed Bickert - Guitar
Marty Morell - Drums and Percusion
Rick Homme - Electric and Acoustic Bass
Don Thompson - Keyboard, Arco String Bass
Bob Mann - Rhythm Guitar on "Rocks," "Digs" & "Museum Piece" + solo on "Dinosaurus"
Doug Riley - Keyboard on "Rocks," + Clavinet & Piano on "Dinosaurus"

1 Museum Piece
2 Rocks (Mineralogy)
3 Digs (Archaeology)
4 Evolution Blues
5 Pharoah's Dream
6 Wildlife (Mammalogy)
7 Days Gone By (Egyptology)
8 Dinosaurus

Celebrate Cheeba's birthday today by tagging along with Soundological & Moe for a trip to the museum - free ticket in the comments!


Anonymous said...






Very Good Many Thanks
guido/LF from

Simon666 said...

happy birthday!
grabbing now , will be baaaaack ...

cheeba said...

@LF, glad you like, you're certainly welcome!

@Simon, thanks for the b-day wishes bruv. Hope you enjoy!

E-mile said...

Cheeba many happy returns and I'll have one (or two) on your health tonight! will give Moe a spin.
peace, E-mile

Arkadin said...

Happy birthday, mate! & thanks for some mo' Moe!

matthew said...

happy birthday Cheeba, another year of fantastically entertaining writing and some great music. have a good one!

Goofy said...

Happy birthday Cheeba! Thanks for the ticket, interesting museum...

cheeba said...

Thanks so much guys! I really appreciate the birthday wishes and would like you to know that yes, it was happy!

In fact, that's a big reason it took so long to respond to your comments ;)

Oracle said...

Sorry I missed the actual day of the celebration of your birth but Birthday wishes to you today.

Your presence is appreciated and your knowledge and ability to relate the essence of an album to me is truly amazing. I can "cut and paste" but you can personally "cut to the chase" on the value of each offer.

Keep it up and see you here or there.


cheeba said...

Thanks for that heartfelt comment, Oracle! You know I'll be poppin' by the Portal in days to come :)

Carlos said...

Thank you much! Been waiting for this like a hawk.

cheeba said...

You're very welcome Carlos. Hope it was worth the wait!

Clap Yo Handz said...

You made my day... and I MEAN IT!!
extra thanx from PAris,


cheeba said...

You're extra welcome CYH!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this investigation!

•O•A•T•S•T•A•O• said...

yes, a good album. I have it on 8-track aswell as LP. :D
Alot of the band members that played with Moe, including the bass player, started in Pete Schofields Canadians. :D

Big Pookie said...

Happy belated bornday Cheeba....can I still get a ride to the museum with you PLEASE!!!

Andre said...

My fix for the weekend...million thanks!

Anonymous said...

i like my copy that i've had since 1979. it had better than average vinyl pressing quality for the period, with low surface noise and decent resolution of the master tape.

Kratzersprung said...

Down. reup?

cheeba said...

Replaced at glacial pace