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Alphonse Mouzon: Angel Face

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Alphonse Mouzon’s new straight-ahead jazz project, which took 11 years to complete, is peculiar. Mouzon’s 12 original tunes are performed by various quintets with trumpet/tenor saxophone frontlines and the leader on drums. There are four trumpet players (Arturo Sandoval, Wallace Roney, Shunzo Ohno and Mouzon, who is self-taught on the instrument) and five tenors (Don Menza, Bob Mintzer, Charles Owens, Ernie Watts and Antoine Roney). Mouzon is one of three piano players. The others are Cedar Walton and Kenny Barron. Six different recording studios were used. How much overdubbing took place is not specified. Obviously overdubbing was used on the four tracks where Mouzon plays drums plus another instrument, and on “Stepping Stone,” which contains the harmonized voices of Mouzon’s daughter Emma Alexandra, recorded at ages 5, 12 and 13.

Mouzon is still a powerful drummer, if not a notable trumpeter or pianist. But musicianship is not the issue here. The problem is that Mouzon’s methodology inevitably creates a pastiche and not an album. Another hindrance is that his militantly mainstream hard-bop compositions sound generic. Even the audio quality is dated, which reinforces this anthology’s feeling of artificiality and disembodiment.

It would have been a more meaningful record if Mouzon had gotten any one of these quintets together for some gigs and then recorded them live-live in a studio or live in a club. Instead, Angel Face offers some fine isolated moments, like Roney flawlessly channeling muted Miles on “More Miles in the Sky,” Menza’s concise, fierce outpourings on “Blues Clues,” and Barron’s four classy solos. Every time Watts enters a tune it is a jolt of adrenaline, even on mellower pieces like the title track.

Originally Published