Michael Moore, John Pope, Johnny Hunter: Something Happened

In improvisations only obliquely related to theme or harmony, this trio of reeds, bass and drums reminds of the developments of the late 1950s


New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings’ sixteenth release features Amsterdam-based reeds veteran Michael Moore. It’s one of the most outstanding from that highly resourceful and creative label.

Moore was born in Eureka, California in 1954, and studied at New England Conservatory with Jaki Byard, Gunther Schuller, Ran Blake and George Russell – that’s quite a professorial line-up! He’s probably best-known as a member of the Clusone Trio with Han Bennink and Ernst Reijseger but on last year’s UK visit his trio featured John Pope (bass) and Johnny Hunter (drums). Across six live dates each musician contributed compositions; in true jazz fashion there was minimal rehearsal, and the band worked on them before live audiences.

The seventh date of that tour was followed by the recording session at regular NEWJAiM venue Blank Studios, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. At the live date, the trio’s work sometimes reminded me of Jimmy Giuffre’s early 1960s trios, with shades also of Ornette Coleman – attractive echoes evident on the recording.

Undulation begins free, then acquires a groove on which Johnny Hunter changes metre, and accelerates and decelerates. The album also features some compositions from the gig, including Moore’s attractively boppish Providence, where he plays saxophone with echoes of Lee Konitz. Also from the gig are two compositions by Johnny Hunter – Some Moore and The First Half Of May. The former is an Ornette-ish theme that begins with a lively groove, alternating with a free tempo; the latter features Moore on clarinet, with a gentle country/folk feel reminiscent of Jimmy Giuffre. We also heard John Pope’s Piffle, which opened with duck-calls on clarinet and violent interjections from drums, then develops a quirky groove with the drummer showing a Baby Dodds influence.

Composer Martin Arnold commented on “[jazz] innovators of the 1950s and early 60s, who, while still playing over chord changes… improvised lines that had only a viscously oblique relationship to the harmonies”. Moore’s compositions are formed by this era, and the connections between the brief themes, chords or modes, and performance are idiosyncratic in the way that Arnold describes. Moore remains a talent deserving wider recognition. Something Happened shows a modern master at the height of his powers, beautifully accompanied by younger players who should also be much better known.

Providence; A Simple Change; Undulation; First Half Of May; Anything Can Happen; Some Moore / Middle Of The Road; Piffle; May-Ting; Bug Music (60.03)
Moore (as, cl); Pope (b); Hunter (d). Newcastle-upon-Tyne, May-June 2022.
New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings NEWJAiM16