The master musician, drummer Alphonse Mouzon ’s latest recording, Angel Face (Tenacious) is a wonderful, bouncy, happy-feeling, swinging set of originals. It clearly shows that the extremely talented veteran, who has played with Miles Davis and Weather Report, is a serious composer in his own right, and that he keeps the right company, with all-stars on this date that include pianists, Kenny Barron and Cedar Walton, and horn men, sax man Ernie Watts and trumpeter Wallace Roney. The supreme, much-in-demand bass player, Christian McBride is also on most of the selections. Mouzon picked the perfect group to give the CD its bright, summer-time, straight-ahead groove that Mouzon directs like a maestro on every tune. His drumming is not only the time piece and the keeper of the beat, but, it is as Art Blakey was always fond of saying, the drummer is “the director” of the entire sound of the band.
Mouzon named the album for his daughter, Emma Alexandra Mouzon, whose photo is featured on the cover, and whose voice is featured on “Stepping Stone,” the strongest cut on the CD. Alphonse really shows off on his tune. His tasty, driving licks, set the stage for serious soulful, splashing solos from pianist Kenny Barron and for outstanding, distinct solos from the Ernie Watts, blowing as if he there was no tomorrow. Watts sounds very nice throughout the entire recording, but, it is on “Stepping Stone” that he shines and it is evident that that boost came from Mouzon being in that swinging pocket.
“Angel Face,” the title tune, has a catchy melody that lingers long after the CD is finished. It proves that the music is all about tradition and making music that the listener has to enjoy and find pleasing to the ear. Simplicity is the theme with this mellow, sweet selection which features the superb playing, on a muted trumpet, by Wallace Roney, who is also showcased on another Mouzon melodic one, aptly, called “More Miles In The Sky.” Other noteworthy titles, include the swift-moving, “Harlem Blues” and the earthy “Whatever.”
Mouzon ’s tunes are mostly upbeat and tend not to slow down. They also seem to tell a story about how determination and strong will always prevail. In the liner notes, the drummer said that the recording took eleven (11) years to make and that it was a “Labor of Love” (another title on “Angel Face”). It is obvious that this is an album that came from the heart and that the musicians worked as a unit, family for the love of jazz and mostly, for the love of Mr. Mouzon. This delight was worth waiting eleven years for because it brings joy to the heart, the ears to hear such stellar performances from these seasoned musicians.
It's just too bad the album didn’t have a slow tempo, ballad. All of the soloists are fine balladeers. It would have been an added treat, like a cheery on top of a sundae, to have had them do a slow one or two. But, that’s for the next album, or maybe, not. Either way, Mouzon has a vibrant, colorful survivor story to tell and we, the listeners, are very fortunate to have him share that exciting evolving saga with us
Larry Reni Thomas
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