In his colorful and wide-ranging career, Alphonse Mouzon has long been considered one of the most skilled and versatile drummers in the music business. He was a member of the original version of Weather Report and of Larry Coryell's Eleventh House, and worked with Gil Evans, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis (the Dingo
album), Jean-Luc Ponty (a recent tour of Europe) and countless others. On his newest CD Angel Face
, which took 11 years to complete, the drummer wrote and arranged all of the songs and gathered together a summit of musical giants, 14 in all including Alphonse. Musicians include trumpeters Arturo Sandoval and Wallace Roney, saxophonist Ernie Watts, pianists Cedar Walton and Kenny Barron, bassists Christian McBride and Henry 'The Skipper' Franklin, and others.
In a musical universe obsessed with guitars and saxes, it's sometimes a challenge for a drummer to get a little respect. Alphonse Mouzon has gotten his as much for his playing as for his acumen as a renegade independent record label owner (Tenacious Records), the original drummer of fusion pioneers Weather Report and for a four decade string of eclectic jazz recordings as a leader that swing from inside to outside and all the spaces in between (not to mention his colorful fashion sense). Mouzon's latest CD, Angel Face
(dedicated to his daughter Emma who graces the cover and is a featured as a sweet vocal presence on one tune) is perhaps his most straight ahead date to date. It features an impressive collection of cats and all 14 of the songs (two alternate takes) were written by Mouzon - most in the blues bop vein of the late '50s and '60s. Think Nat & Cannon, Miles and meat-n-potatoes Blue Note.
Mouzon's writing is elementary and economical - simple memorable heads that open into cookin' grooves for the soloists to leave indelible impressions. It's the kind of CD that keeps toes tapping from start to finish and will have your company swearing you pulled it down from the vintage shelf. Highlights include More Miles in The Sky featuring Wallace Roney on muted trumpet, Bird on a Wire with some impressive blowing from trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, Stepping Stone featuring Emma Alexandra Mouzon singing the title/hook - 8x overdubbed at ages 5, 12 and 13 - the Coltrane/Tyner-esque Whatever with Mouzon on piano AND drums, Derek Oles on bass and Wallace & Antoine Roney on trumpet and tenor, the cool swing of Night Walker featuring Ernie Watts on tenor, Shunzo Ono (Al's old Eleventh House band mate) on trumpet and Cedar Walton on piano, and a signature solo drum interlude by Mouzon touting his drum line: Canopus Octopus! Mouzon even sits in within the trumpet section for the light swing of Never Say Never. The two alternate takes are novel given that Mouzon gets to have his cake and eat it too by switching up the saxophonist and/or bassist on the tracks. The remaining cats are Kenny Barron, Don Menza, Christian McBride, Charles Owens, Bob Mintzer and Henry 'Skipper' Franklin.
Satisfying like a favorite meal you've had hundreds of times only this time from a surprising new source, Alphonse Mouzon's Angel Face is a satiating banquet of bop. Bon Appetit. --A. Scott Galloway, The Urban Music Scene, May 13, 2011