Jazz in Bel-Air
Alphonse Mouzon may be best known as a charter member of Weather Report, but the drummer’s constant spirit of musical wanderlust has always kept him from having a higher profile. His tenure in the group was brief, a constant throughout a session-heavy 40-year career. His solo releases, however, now number 20 with the live Jazz in Bel-Air.
It’s Mouzon’s first release since 2001, partly because that wandering spirit extends to his personal life. The versatile South Carolina native, now based in California, gave up a career in medicine to focus on music in the late 1960s. He’s since become a producer, actor (appearing in the films That Thing You Do and First Daughter), massage therapist, drum instructor, trumpeter and label head. For this recording, Mouzon leaves the trumpet work to Sal Marquez, whose own impressive credits include Frank Zappa and Buddy Rich.
The 10 Mouzon originals also feature tenor saxophonist Chuck Manning, pianist David Goldblatt and bassist Dave Enos. Everyone solos on the opening “Be-Bop-Be-Do-Bop,” with Marquez and Manning providing the bop, Goldblatt and Enos the swing-era nuances, and Mouzon playing an impressive shell game with the beat during his unaccompanied break. The horn section then decelerates “After the Rain” and “Starting All Over Again,” playing harmonized lines à la Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter, obvious influences on both band and composer here.
Mouzon shows his Latin jazz side on “A Night for Love,” and big-band influence on “Feeling Good,” even if the slightly predictable ideas for each are about as original as their titles. But the multi-faceted drummer (whose ancestry is a mix of African-American, French and Blackfoot Indian) rescues the disc’s sleepy second half with the closing “Mystic Crystal.” Impressive statements by Marquez and Enos lead to an incendiary drum solo, signaling that Mouzon is the perennial artist deserving of wider recognition.