Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Chosen Fusion: Alphonse Moves On

The year is nearly over, and for music aficionados it's likely not a moment too soon. Today we memorialize yet another heavyweight hitter, gone this week after a career that left his drumprints on a whole lot of the sounds of our lifetimes.
I got to chat with him a few times on Facebook and he was a super guy, but even if he'd have been a screaming Buddy Rich tirade he'd still be the drummer on literally dozens of the greatest recordings of the last 50 years.
The first Weather Report LP, that launched them on the path to fusion stardom. All those Larry Coryell Eleventh House albums. Those Eugene McDaniels thermonuclear salvos Headless Heroes and Outlaw, in which he lays down beats to match the militancy of Gene's messages.
I teased him about that when I talked to him six months ago, what was Gene like? He was SO proud of those records and his unique and instantly recognizable style really takes them over the top, even now when we are 45 years removed from their making.
It's a testimony to his chops and personal flair that you can put a record on and know it's him after just a few bars. Drummers, as opposed to all other instrumentalists, have the toughest time establishing those conditions behind their work, where the sound is recognizable even without seeing who is playing.
He passed after a yearlong cancer battle on Sunday at the age of 68, but not before a career that spanned decades and collaborations with some of the most significant musos of our era. I just realized he is the man manning the traps for a whole slew of McCoy Tyner LPs and also the Betty Davis record Crashin' from Passion, wow. What didn't this guy play on?
A figure of this stature deserves a tribute of truly funkified proportions, and as Alphonse Mouzon was one of if not the premier fusion drummers of that art form's mid-Seventies golden age, let's share a delicious concert captured by German TV at the height of it. This is from 40 years ago and features the equally-as-immortal (and thankfully still breathing) Gary Bartz supplying his unique brand of alto and soprano saxophonistic shreddings over the bubbling beats of our departed honoree.
Alphonse Mouzon Group
Berliner Jazztage
Philharmonie
Berlin, Germany
11.7.1976

01 announcement by Werner Wunderlich
02 drum intro
03 Nyctophobia
04 Master Funk

05 Virtue
06 Poobli

Total time: 44:12

Gary Bartz - alto saxophone
Stu Goldberg - keyboards
Welton Gite - bass
Alphonze Mouzon - drums, percussion

PAL DVD from what looks like a master tape from the German TV archives
2.39 GB here
Obviously 2016 has been the Waterloo watershed for musicians leaving our world, and it hasn't been easy. I've only even been able to tribute a fraction of the luminaries that left us in the last 12 months.... I mean, George Michael and actress Carrie Fisher died in just the 48 hours since Alphonse Mouzon did, for cryin' out loud. Hopefully 2017 won't be as cruel an experience, but there are no guarantees so treasure them whilst they remain, for they are the ones that do the very best thing humans do -- move the air with music -- the best of any of us.--J.
11.21.1948 - 12.25.2016