Alphonse Mouzon: By All Means

Along with Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock and Lee Ritenour the disco-drenched drummer offers a masterclass in groove

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Alphonse Mouzon is perhaps most often associated with the music of Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Tommy Bolin, Roy Ayers and Stevie Wonder – just a few of the artists the legendary drummer worked with during his near 60-year playing career. Hired for his diversity and deep pocket (not to mention his writing, arranging and production skills) he also possessed some serious chops when the music required  them, as many of his more frenetic fusion recordings with Weather Report and Larry Coryell testify.

On this, his 10th album as leader from 1981, we hear more slick grooves than serious moves, with the exception of Space Invaders, a frantic Billy Cobham styled drum solo wet with cosmic synths and Mouzon’s robotic vocal loudly bellowing the track’s title. While clearly impressive drumming-wise, this near five-minute bash about sounds somewhat misplaced amongst an otherwise robust set of jazz-licked instrumental disco.

Composed and arranged by Mouzon, the tracks are all as arresting as the band assembled for this date: Herbie Hancock and Lee Ritenour – two players that famously exploited the disco-funk style through the 1970s – the great Freddie Hubbard, session bassist Scott Edwards and guitarist Paul Jackson Jr, flanked by members of the Seawind Horns – trumpeter Jerry Hey, flutist Kim Hutchcroft and Larry Williams on flute and tenor saxophone.

The record opens with Do I Have To and Ritenour and Jackson Jr fusing light jazz phrasing with funky wah under a melody split between flugel and flute. While vibey from the off, the track is lifted to another level with some soulful tenor from Williams and Hancock laying out a long, syncopated solo on Rhodes. The more disco-driven Next Time We Love is just as infectious but finds Hancock and Ritenour in a more romantic mood, melodically. Oberheim synths and oboe float around piano and Spanish-influenced acoustic guitar casting silky lines over this lyrical cut before The Jogger encourages a flip back to funk, a spill of heavy horns and some playing from all that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Head Hunters record.

Despite his name getting equal billing on the sleeve, it’s interesting that Freddie Hubbard only appears on the closing title cut. But his flugel solo here (following a jaw-dropping one from Hancock on piano) not only warrants his name in lights, but closes this 14-minute disco jam with a real bang. Many may argue that Hancock is the main draw on this album, but By All Means is undoubtedly Mouzon’s finest hour as a leader for sure. A masterclass in groove that will make you move. 

Discography
Do I Have To?; Space Invaders; The Next Time We Love; The Jogger; By All Means (41.29)
Mouzon (d, pc, kyb, elp, ARP syn, other syn); Herbie Hancock (p, elp, Fender Rhodes); Lee Ritenour (g); Freddie Hubbard (flh); Paul Jackson Jr (g); Scott Edwards (b); Jerry Hey (t, flh); Kim Hutchcroft (f, as); Larry Williams (f, ts); Larry Tim (o); Pavel Farkas (concertmaster). Studio Sound Recorders, North Hollywood, CA, August 1980.
MPS  01216970MSW