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JAZZ REVIEW

Saxophonist Moore Plays Confident Set

June 24, 1996|BILL KOHLHAASE

Los Angeles has frequently attracted world-class musicians to its climes with the promise of a regular entertainment industry paycheck.

But those musicians who have relocated here to work the studio and show bands often continue to pursue their art after working hours, providing a substantial fringe benefit to the jazz community. Such is the case of saxophonist Ralph Moore, who played Bjlauzezs in Sherman Oaks Saturday night.

Moore, the London-born New Yorker who came to Los Angeles last year to become part of Kevin Eubanks' Tonight Show band, is an integral part of Cedar Walton's Eastern Rebellion ensemble as well as playing with fellow New Yorkers Renee Rosnes, Billy Drummond and Larry Grenadier in the band Native Colours. The 39-year-old saxophonist has also recorded a handful of albums under his own name for the Landmark, Criss Cross and Savoy labels.

Appearing with pianist Billy Childs and fellow-Tonight Show band members bassist Bob Hurst and drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith, Moore showcased his confident tenor play in a loose set of standards that he imprinted with an energetic, often engaging mix of styles.

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Like many of his generation, Moore has assumed a variety of influences. Snatches of Wayne Shorter's probing style and Joe Henderson's terse, pregnant lines were in evidence. Moore proved particularly adept at finding just the right moment to employ the kind of overtone-rich, upper-register cries associated with John Coltrane, which he delivered with a firm sense of control and understated volume.

During Coltrane's melancholy tune "Say It (Over and Over Again)," he closely shadowed the late saxophonist, delivering the poignant theme in almost mirror-image to the one heard on Coltrane's 1962 recording "Ballads." From there, Moore conducted the improvisation on his own terms, heightening the tune's sense of romance with achingly lyrical lines.

Smith, who has recorded with such forward thinkers as M-Base saxophonist Steve Coleman and bassist Dave Holland, contributed much more than timekeeping, adding accents and impressive roll combinations that recalled Tony Williams' work with Miles Davis.

Likewise Hurst, while providing a solid base, brought fleetness and attractive decoration to his play, then soloed with spunk and an inexhaustible wealth of ideas. Childs, as always, made provocative improvisational contributions. Here's hoping Hollywood continues to provide a place for Moore, Smith and Hurst. Their presence enriches our musical community.

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