Lucid Culture


A Compelling, Translucent New Album and a Smalls Gig From Simon Moullier

Vibraphonist Simon Moullier burst on the New York jazz scene with an individualistic and sometimes breathtakingly articulate sound. He’s made a name for himself with his distinctive interpretations of standards but is now staking out fertile new terrain as a composer on his latest album Isla, streaming at Bandcamp. And he’s leading his quartet at Smalls on March 5, with sets at 7:30 and 9ish; cover is $25 at the door.

On the opening number, Empress of the Sea, bassist Alexander Claffy and drummer Jongkuk Kim lay down a lithe 12/8 groove beneath a distantly eerie modal vamp and similar harmonies between Moullier and pianist Lex Korten. The piano warms the atmosphere after the bandleader’s enigmatic solo, but the unease remains. It’s a strong opener.

The second cut is the title track, which could be vintage Bobby Hutcherson in an especially gritty but also slinky mood: the band really swing this hard as they move along. Kim’s hushed clave gives extra suppleness and mystery to You Go to My Head, Moullier’s tight clustering approach in contrast to Korten’s legato, with an electrifying vibraphone solo out.

The band reach for a more relaxed, syncopated shuffle rhythm in Enchantment, Korten’s loose-limbed solo at the center: Moullier’s incisive upper register riffs come across as guitar voicings, a cool touch. He builds the aptly titled Moon Mist around a spring-loaded, hypnotic vamp, Claffy stepping out for a stroll as Korten collects a dream nebula overhead which the bandleader then gives an extra jolt of voltage.

The band go back to early 60s Prestige Records terrain for This Dream, Kim loping along with a spring-loaded syncopation as Moullier riffs at high velocity over Korten’s steady insistence. Phoenix Eye is the album’s punchiest, most biting and allusively bluesy track, Korten scrambling, Moullier choosing his spots. They bring the record full circle with the simply titled Heart, a wary ballad: it’s the most allusively Lynchian and defiantly enigmatic track here. Moullier has really been on a creative roll lately: let’s hope that continues.


February 28, 2023 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Simon Moullier Brings His Imaginative Vibes to the Tip of Tribeca

Vibraphonist Simon Moullier is one of the most individualistic mallet guys around. In his hands, the vibes are first and foremost a percussion instrument rather than a Fender Rhodes analogue (does a Rhodes falls into the percussion category? Hmmm….). On his latest album Countdown – a relatively rare vibraphone trio release streaming at youtube – Moullier gravitates toward latin rhythms and keeps his songs on the relatively short side, jukebox-jazz style. While most of the numbers on the album are as standard as repertoire gets, you have definitely not heard them like this before. Moullier is playing with a quartet on April 7 at 7 PM at the Django; cover is $25.

He opens with the title track. It’s spring-loaded, but on a long spring: this is a Land Rover, not a little Toyota racing through the dirt. Bassist Luca Alemanno often doubles the lickety-split melody line, while drummer Jongkuk(“J.K.” Kim rides the traps, coloring the sound with a whiplash snap.

The first of the two Monk tunes here is Work, which Moullier reinvents with a circular West African vibe over some serious funk: Kim alternating between a tight scramble and flailing accents as Alemanno dances around the center. The payoff as they wind it out, with the close harmonies and phantasmagoria, is especially tasty. The second Monk number is Ask Me Now, done as a wry, fond, rather skeletal shuffle.

The trio remake Cole Porter’s I Concentrate on You as a chugging cha-cha packed with clusters and rivulet riffs. Likewise, they take Goodbye Pork Pie Hat to new Lynchian levels of noir, at least when Kim isn’t working smacking emphatic counterrhythms, or when Alemanno breaks it up with a judiciously spacious solo.

Their take of Nature Boy makes a good segue, the group shifting from a rustling quasi-tango to a steady clave punctuated by a punchy Alemanno solo. They pick up the pace with a briskly swinging version of Bill Evans’ Turn Out the Stars, Alemanno’s bounce and Kim’s counterintuitive cymbals behind Moullier’s steady, lingering lines.

Their tropically propulsive take of The Song Is You is the album’s most lighthearted moment. The Toninho tune Beijo Partido is the briefest and most pointillistic…except that it’s Kim who’s in charge of the pointillisms.

Tadd Dameron’s Hot House is exactly that, Moullier and Alemanno sprinting in tandem as Kim throws elbows all the way. What a breath of fresh air this is: we need more outside-the-box albums like this.

April 4, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment