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Brew Moore: Special Brew (SteepleChase)

A review of the tenor saxophonist-led quartet's 1961 recording

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Brew Moore: Special Brew (SteepleChase)
The cover of Special Brew by Brew Moore

Milton “Brew” Moore once opined that “Anyone who doesn’t play like Pres is wrong,” but he later realized the limitations of such a position and professed an admiration for Charlie Parker. Special Brew offers evidence on both fronts, with the tenor saxophonist taking a turn at two Charlie Parker tunes. Even if he doesn’t dig into bebop’s bag of rhythmic advances or melodic curlicues, the lessons absorbed from his forefather Lester Young manifest themselves in some lengthy solos that sustain a high level of melodic ingenuity.

By 1961, when these recordings were made, Moore was living in Denmark, leading a quartet that featured then-16-year-old Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass), Alex Riel (drums), and Harold Goldberg (piano)—the latter a partner in Jazzhus Montmartre, where the other two would soon become resident players. Four tracks capture a Copenhagen concert and the remaining four come from a television appearance a month later in Sweden. Aside from some tape flutter that toys with pitch, the sound quality is strong. Moore frequently adopts a smoky tone similar to Stan Getz, which adds dimension to his attack. Pedersen’s solid walking locks in perfectly with Riel and seems to inspire their leader to cut loose during a bridge of “Scrapple from the Apple.” He and Goldberg trade fours, twos, and ones in “Tiny’s Blues” with ease. But when Goldberg leaves the piano for the trombone-like alto horn on the title track, you wish he would have started there. Everyone taps into resources they had only hinted at to this point.

Not every tenor saxophonist wanted to follow Coltrane and Rollins or, conversely, look backward in the early ’60s. Brew Moore, who would only live another 12 years, resided in the middle and found plenty of inspiration in that spot.

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Mike Shanley

Mike Shanley has been a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh and gladly welcomes any visitors to the city, most likely with a cup of coffee in one hand. Over the years, he has written for several alternative weekly papers and played bass guitar in several indie rock bands. He currently writes for the bi-weekly paper Pittsburgh Current and maintains a blog at shanleyonmusic.blogspot.com.