Moffit wrote four of the eight tracks on the album and arranged all of the songs presented here. But he fashions the songs around the bridal theme of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” The four Jazz standards are what is borrowed, Jimmy Van Heusen’s But Beautiful is the old, the four originals are, obviously new, and the Blues piece Free for All is what is blue. Nice.
The band Turning Circles includes, with Moffit on trumpet and flugelhorn, Seth Ebersole (alto and tenor sax), Rob Killips (trombone), Altin Sencalar (trombone), Arlene Pritchard McDaniel (Fender Rhodes, piano, Casio Privia), Luther Allison (Fender Rhodes), Terry Newman (bass), and Ian Levine (drums). Moffit says the band is comprised of “new and old friends.”
The album kicks off with Hank Mobley’s This I Dig of You. The piece is introduced by the Newman bass but is quickly joined by Moffit’s trumpet and then the other horns. Ebersole’s alto sax is a beauty and the rhythms are tight and fresh. Milton “Shorty” Rogers’ was one of the founders of West Coast Jazz and Just a Few is a great part of the reason why. The cool swing is intoxicating. The unified horn section is brilliant.
Woody Shaw’s Katrina Ballerina is a hard bop piece with its well-known, smoking trumpet solo. Moffit shows why he is so well-regarded with this flawless handling of the great piece. Arlene McDaniel’s fantastic piano solo is worthy of great attention, as well. Then Jimmy Van Heusen’s But Beautiful is the last of the something borroweds and is also the finale of the album. The beautiful flugelhorn is simply breath-taking and the Fender Rhodes provides a wonderful partner for this duet.
As wonderful as those standards are, the Moffit originals are truly remarkable. Free for All sounds like it could have composed by Billy Strayhorn and this song swings hard. Great drumming from Ian Levine accents the cool piano and hot horns. Life, Love, Loss sounds like something Michel Legrand would be proud to claim. The flugelhorn is warm and melancholy. The whole piece is something extraordinary. Listen to it carefully.
The boogie-woogie intro of 10-4 Jam turns into riotously good fun with the bass clef piano that gives way to the bright horns. The horns make me think of Night in Tunisia but this is something definitely new. Then M.L. closes the originals with tight horns and a rollicking rhythm section. Again, Moffit shows why we have missed him without knowing it.
Yeah, we had to wait too long for this album. With all those years spent in the Air Force Band, Kerry Moffit was honing his craft so that, when he was ready, he could release an album that we longed to hear.
Maybe we had to be ready to hear him.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl