Free Jazz Composer Michael Moss Debuts Two Major Compositions On His New Release HELIX
Multi-instrumentalist/composer Michael Moss, a veteran of New York’s free jazz scene, has assembled a brand-new band, the Accidental Orchestra, featuring 22 of the most exciting improvisers on the jazz scene today. His new CD HELIX
is the premiere recording of a pair of his latest extended compositions.
kicks off with “The Old One,” which gets its title from Einstein’s name for God. Moss describes this five-piece suite as “an initiation into sacred ground.” He views it as part of a musical tradition stretching from the earliest ritual over the dead to Bach’s Mass in B Minor, through Native American rites of passage into the spirit world, the Jewish mourner’s Kaddish, and Buddhist funeral rituals.
Moss wrote "See Sharp or Be Flat/C# or Bb" while recovering from a fracture suffered in tripping over a curb. The composer brings a quirky sense of humor to the situation, right down to deciding to name his ensemble the Accidental Orchestra in memory of the incident. Moss aimed to let the band swing on this contrapuntal theme and variations mixing jazz, rhythm and blues, and the joy of dance. “Throughout I refer to Norwegian Wood (The Beatles), I Feel Good (James Brown), and Bags Groove (the Modern Jazz Quartet), but do not resort to familiar big band tropes,” Moss explains. “This is a type of string orchestra, but with lots of jazz musicians pushing the boundaries.”
The Chicago-born, Madison, Wisconsin-educated Michael Moss has been an active member of the New York jazz scene for 50 years, earning recognition for his skill and imagination as a multi-reed player, and for the freshness and intensity of his writing. The self-described “farthest-out cat” was a mainstay of Manhattan’s famed loft jazz scene, playing with Sam Rivers, Dave Liebman, Paul Bley, Annette Peacock, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Richie Beirach and scores of others. He’s equally at home from a duo setting to an orchestra of 50-plus players.
As a composer, Moss assigns time signatures to segments of his pieces, but the final form of any given composition depends entirely on the interaction of the musicians. A sense of space marks much of his work. Though, like most avant artists he shifts tempos frequently and sometimes drops the meter altogether, he and the group under his direction tend to listen more and play in the openings. Though his music clearly arises from the jazz tradition, Moss draws heavily from disparate folk idioms. American blues and Latin rhythmic influences are obvious in his work, but Israeli folk melodies (out of his own Jewish origins) or Tibetan chants (appropriated on a trip to India) are equally likely to emerge in his performances. Listeners can’t help but be captivated by what they hear, as they accompany Moss and the Accidental Orchestra on this life-long journey.
"Playing free, but still playing together--it's a question of moving forward by moving backwards and sideways at the same time," Moss says obliquely, and yet the music seems to do just this, and makes sense. Robert LaBrasca, Press Connection and Rolling Stone writer (1986).
"Moss' music is conceptually complex and musically brilliant, reaching across ages, cultures and continents for rhythms, phrases, melodies, and harmonics to produce a sound which is fascinating yet unsettling because it is foreign but so familiar." Fred Waitzkin liner notes Michael Moss/Four Rivers Cross Current (1978).
What The Press Is Saying About HELIX
"This is a stunning achievement – one that demands our attention."
Grady Harp, Amazon, April 2, 2018
"This fantastic album gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.99."
“C# or Bb” is not only my choice from this album, it’s also my personal favorite improvised set (yet) in 2018! All the players in the orchestra challenge the boundaries on this one, & I’ve no doubt that those of you who thrive on music that stimulates creativity (in many different directions at once) will be playing this one over & over & OVER again!"
"The orchestra Michael assembled for this stunning trip is amazing in and of itself…over fifteen minutes of far-out fun for all."
"If it’s etherspace you’re craving for in your listening adventures, you’ll find “Mind Of God
” the perfect blend of cool and cacophonous."
Rotcod Zzaj,Dick Metcalf, editor, Contemporary Fusion ReviewsFebruary 27, 2018
Michael Moss Uses Experimental Jazz To Bring Helix To Life
"While there are swing elements and other traditional jazz elements, but the form here is completely experimental. This is jazz of big ideas. And probably not for beginning jazz fans. Still, there is an energy and perceptiveness that keeps audiences listening, and that might be the most important thing of all."
"From folk melodies to Renaissance orchestras, to Latin, blues and more, Moss has a nearly encyclopedic array of musical influences. According to Moss, he wants to stretch America’s musical heritage into the future while acknowledging its past innovators such as Louis Armstrong and Scott Joplin. With “Helix” it sounds as though he is doing exactly that."
"The album succeeds as an experimental album based on a theme – – listeners with traditional expectations of jazz will be surprised or disappointed. But putting traditional restraints on free-flowing experimental jazz is to miss the point of the form."
Dodie Miller-Gould, lemonwire, February 15, 2018
"If Avant Garde, free-form jazz is your preference, you will enjoy listening to the outer limits of Dr. Michael Moss’s artistic creativity. Michael Moss is a 50-year veteran of the New York “free” jazz scene. He’s a multi-instrumentalist and a composer, Chicago-born. At times, this music reminds me of the Chicago Art Ensemble, except that this production features a twenty-two piece orchestra. The Moss production is all over the place, spewing energy and combining instruments and notes in a unique and often dissonant manner."
"I was particularly drawn to the final “SEE SHARP OR BE FLAT” composition that features a provocative violin solo with complimentary string ensemble support. This composition gives more opportunity for individual players to step forward and solo. I found the guitar solo to be outstanding with Warren Smith’s percussion bright and tasty beneath it."
"If you have a taste for a project that’s out-of-the-ordinary, the Accidental Orchestra will soothe your palate."
Dee Dee McNeil,February 28, 2018
"It is a work to be heard without prejudices, reminiscent of certain episodes of the music of Anthony Braxton."
"There is everything from the more traditional jazz, with a swing of the rhythm section, to more material and abstract moments like in the long Inception
, with instruments like the djembe or the tabla that give a sense of world, or the oboe of Richard Keene, with his nasal sound that stands out on the whole set."
"Between moments more free and others more tied to the mainstream Moss demonstrates its music culture and the ability to consistently put together moments inspired by different historical periods."
"A great record of this big band."
Vittorio Lo Conte, Music Zoom, April, 2018
"The music and albums of this native of Chicago are always distinguished by their originality, and often the use of elements of various ethnic musical cultures."
"In general - an excellent album for advanced fans of jazz music and, probably, quite a complex work for neophytes."
Leonid Auskern, Nestor Media, March, 2018
"Sun Ra-ish Swing"
"The Accidental Orchestra is comprised of a “Who’s Who” of the New York Improvised Music Scene."
"A dissonant, yet strangely colorful and delightful series of chords emerge with a startling intensity."
“See Sharp or Be Flat”begins with a shout of joy. It’s a jazz expression of an acceptance of all the good and bad things life throws at us."
“Bridge”swings, walks, and flows like a rich liquid, as if it is urging you to follow its path."
"Moss cultivates an intricate musical garden, then allows it to run wild, knowing quite well the trajectories each living thing will take."
"A master of multiple reed instruments, and compositions . . . Moss knows how to handle himself. His musical inspirations are not limited by genre, culture, or historical period. To transcend the constant danger of self indulgence and perform music that serves to communicate real ideas and real experiences in service of higher ideals is the sign of a master. Michael Moss and the Accidental Orchestra have accomplished this."
Dawoud Kringle,DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY, March, 2018
"MICHAEL MOSS/Helix: The loft jazz mainstay puts together an Accidental Orchestra, in which the gang is all here, and sets out for places only hinted at in “Metal Machine Music’. Using Einstein’s name for God as the jumping off point, I’ll bet this how things sound in heaven when Metatron dawdles over a second cup of coffee."