CHICAGO JAZZ MAGAZINE

By: Hrayr Attarian

 

 

Mark Moultrup - Relaxin' on the Edge

 

Mark Moultrup – Keys, vocals

Walter White – Trumpet

Chris Collins – Reeds

Nick Calandro – Bass

Bob Harsen – Drums

 

 

Composer and pianist Mark Moultrup’s CD, Relaxin’ on the Edge, is a far more cohesive album in concept and execution than his previous release. Apart from the rap “Coffee, Coffee,” which sounds out of place and can be easily skipped over, the rest is a unified work infused with creative substance by Moultrup’s compositional and improvisational skills. Even the overly saccharin “Stillness” quickly transforms to an engaging piece, thanks to Moultrup’s carefully improvised notes that alternate with pauses like wind blowing through a barren but breathtaking landscape. The rest of the record is divided up between trio and quintet tracks, the music nostalgic for the jazz of the 1970s but nevertheless very forward-looking.

 

Trumpeter Walter White’s Lee Morgan-inspired sound is featured on the meaty and hard swinging “Fast Fusi” and the adventurous and dark hued “Nod to CC,” and his growling and bluesy tone intensifies the funky feeling of the title track. Saxophonist Chris Collins is the perfect foil for White with his virtuoso alto, his Wayne Shorteresque soprano or his gritty tenor. The latter also serves as an interesting contrast to Moultrup’s clear and sleek wordless vocals on the Latin sounding “What Did I Ever Do To You.”

 

It is to Moultrup’s credit as a leader that the momentum never slacks, and these originals shimmer with ever changing musical colors. Although he is in the spotlight briefly with the quintet, he really lets loose as a pianist on the trio tracks. On the intriguing ballad “Half Dome TTT,” the rhythm section meanders together in a stimulating exploration that ventures far from the melody without losing sight of its essence. “Vice Versa” focuses on individual solos by both Moultrup, who delivers his most adventurous improvisation with edgy, free jazz hints and Western classical hues, and Nick Calandro, who shows off his double bass virtuosity having stuck to the electric for most of the CD. Despite the single out-of-place track, the disc stands as Moultrup’s best release and a stimulating listening experience several times over.

 

ALL ABOUT JAZZ

By

EDWARD BLANCO,

Mark Moultrup: Dar Cho

Chicago pianist Mark Moultrup embraces the Tibetan spiritual call for spreading good will and compassion to all known as Dar Cho, the Tibetan word for "prayerflag," and dedicates this new musical project to the same cause. An innovative composer and vocalist, Moultrup fashions a cleaver session of modern and mainstream jazz through a landscape of ten new originals—some sprinkled with a touch of bebop and elements of light classical music, and rounding out the repertoire with new interpretations of three familiar standards. Marked by rich modern harmonies and odd time signatures, the music is exceptionally diverse and challenging, with no two pieces sounding alike.

 

While the recording is replete with examples of Moultrup's talents on the keys, it's also obvious that the pianist likes to sing, which he does on a good portion of the album. Possessing a fine voice but certainly no Frank Sinatra, the pianist sings a lively upbeat version of "Come Fly with Me" and delivers an expected gentler rendition of the Sinatra favorite "Summer Wind." The major difference with Moultrup's versions are, of course, the tasteful piano solos, making them much jazzier than the straight vocals often heard. His vocals lend energy to other pieces, including Antonio Carlos Jobim' standard, "Corcovado"; the creative mainstream burner "What About"; the jumpy "Avant Garlic"; and the beautiful balladic "It Has Always Been You."

 

All is not left to songs however, as there is a fair share of instrumental pieces where Moultup proceeds to demonstrate his appreciable chops and gift for writing, with a slew of very entertaining tunes. There's a bit of funk on "Burger in the Bush," along with the traditional jazz sounds at the beginning of "When Then Was Now," introduced with a tinge of classical style. In fact, there are several compositions that meld elements of jazz with classical flavorings, including "Ted's Last Song," "Waltz" and "Of A Dream," all of which contain marvelous performances from the pianist.

 

Bassist Rodney Whitaker, saxophonist/flautist John Wojciechowski and drummer George Fludas join Moultrup as his core crew, while others appear sparingly. Dar Cho may not be easy to define, considering the mix of vocals, instrumentals and blend of varying genres encountered. But its variety is the album's major asset, as Moultrup offers slices of many genres, tastefully wrapped in a nice package of jazz that's worth unwrapping often.

 

JAZZ TIMES

by

Susan Francis

 

Mark Moultrup

Dar Cho

 

A professional at juxtaposing contemporary carvings with classic jazz motifs, singer/pianist/composer Mark Moultrup is an ubiquitous artist who likes to indulge his creative whims and his inclination for traditional stylizing on his latest recording, Dar Cho. Produced and arranged by Moultrup, Dar Cho wedges progressive odd-time signatures beside standard metronomes and tubes counter-melodies alongside main themes. The outcome is a clover leaf pattern of lines with some flying over the focal point while others cut below as instrument parts move in a succession of orderly traffic. Moultrup keeps the numbers tastefully versed as multi-colored sequences are attached, layered and intermingled into a mix of avant concepts and traditional moldings using their close proximity to produce a lighthearted ambience.

 

Performing with Moultrup on the recording are George Fludas on drums, Rodney Whitaker on bass, John Wojciechowski on saxophone, Kurt Sweitz on arco bass, Michael Levin on flute, and Ernie Adams on percussion. Each track is individually tailored and showcases another facet of Moultrup’s talent to produce pulsating harmonies. His versatility is vast from the classic leanings of “Come Fly With Me” to the balmy, Latin flavored “Corcovado” and the trippy jazz atmospherics of “Burger In The Bush.” Shellac in scat vocals and pivoting grooves, “I Know It’s Only Bebop” brings out Moultrup’s affinity for traditional jazz components, which takes a giant leap in “When Then Was Now” wicked by an experimental-bent in the flickering embers. The soft blazes illuminating “Of A Dream” and “Ted’s Last Song” permeate a contemplative mood, which turn up the activity dial a few notches in the springy grooves of “Avant Garlic” and “What About” stocked in jiggling horns and soft flouncing keys. Levin’s flute in “Good Will In The Wind” decorates the melody with a flowery décor while Adam’s soft percussive beating gives the tune a bouncy tremble in the undercurrent. The melodic phrasing is dulcet and palliative.

 

From bebop and classic jazz models to trippy-ambient jazz properties, Moultrup’s breadth is widespread and demonstrates a tendency to explore new terrain. Moultrup has been a very active member of the jazz community founding the Petoskey Jazz Festival in Petoskey, Michigan and conducting music clinics for a number of years. As a performer for over 30 years with touring credits that includes venues throughout the USA, Europe, South and Central America, and the Caribbean, Mark Moultrup knows no boundaries when it comes to making music. He displays the best of his writing, performing and arranging on Dar Cho as he blares good-will from every corner, which is what “dar cho” means to the Himalayan culture, the origin of the phrase.

Dar Cho by Mark Moultrup

Dar Cho is the latest release from pianist, vocalist, composer arranger and educator Mark Moultrup. Dar Cho is a Tibetan word, Dar meaning to increase life, fortune, health and wealth and Cho meaning all sentient beings. Mark is originally from Detroit, now living in Chicago.

On Dar Cho, Mark played with a group of excellent musicians. George Fludas on drums, played with Ray Brown Trio. Bassist Rodney Whitaker played with Wynton Marsalis. And sax player from Detroit, John Wojciechowski.

Wrote by Mark Moultrup, the first tune, When then was now, is a modern jazz composition with interesting changes in tempo and a powerful, and warm sax playing by John Wojciechowski.

A beautiful piano intro takes us to the next track, a wonderful version of Jobim's classic, "Corcovado" ("Quiet Nights"). Mark does some nice vocal improvisations and scats at the end.

With lyrics of encouragement to believe in yourself, What about is an original song that increase in tempo to change into a Be bop style for the sax solo. Mark solos on piano showcase his command of the piano.

Ted's Last song is dedicated to a dear Mark's friend. The beautiful classical influenced melodies reflect perfectly that melancholic feeling of missing a friend.

Good will in the wind is one of my favorites on this album. With happy melodies and lovely flute playing by Michael Levin, these musicians really spread good will on this tune.

Mark play keyboards and wrote the funny, gastronomic lyrics on the next track, "Avant Garlic", and also adds some cool scats at the end. Waltz is a classical piece that takes the listener to peaceful places and moments. Nice one to relax after a day full of stress. The arpeggios and melodies on Of a dream sounds exactly like music of a dream.

Dedicated to his wife Susie, "It has always been you", is a good romantic song reminiscent of the standards of the great American Songbook. Mark plays keyboards again on Burger in the Bush, a funky piece that sounds like the fusion jazz of the 70's.

Mark does his best vocal work on the next two songs, "Come fly with Me" and "Summer Wind". Listening to Mark's rendition of Come fly with me, is obvious that Mark enjoy to sing this classic. The album ends with a swinging original, with some vocal improvisations and one of the best piano solos by Mark Moultrup.

Mark Moultrup - Dar Co

Mark Moultrup – Piano, vocals, percussion
Rodney Whitaker – Bass
George Fludas – Drums
John Wojciechowski – Tenor saxophone, flute
Kurt Sweitz – Arco bass
Michael Levin – Flute
Ernie Adams – Percussion

A good record can still stimulate and thrill even if it has some uneven and rough spots. Mark Moultrup’s Dar Cho has a few of them, but they are overshadowed by his phenomenal musicianship, both as a composer and improviser, and his superlative pianism. He is also an extremely able leader with a high-caliber cast of musicians who express their individuality within the construct of the group; yet not a single artist overshadows the others.

Floods of sound immediately hit you with the unique “When Then Was Now.” Moultrup leads his group through an exciting, multi-layered labyrinth of notes and brings them out the other end in perfect harmony. The improvised solos, both by him and the others, are thought provoking flights of fancy that never sound out of place or at odds with the character of the composition, and grow more interesting with each listening. This tune sets the mood for the rest of the instrumental tracks, all of which, despite having different styles and time signatures, bear the unmistakable imprint of Moultrup’s unique sound. They range from the beautifully melancholic “Ted’s Last Song” to the funky “Burger in the Bush” (where the leader tries his hand at an electrical keyboard), to classically influenced pieces like “Waltz” and the modal “Of A Dream.”

Moultrup sings on three standards and four original compositions. His vocal skills are decent enough that they do not diminish much from the overall music, but they certainly are not outstanding, nor do they match his other musical talents. On some of the vocal numbers, especially the self penned “What About,” there are interesting instrumental interludes, but the lyrics are not particularly creative or interesting.

Two of the pieces––“Avant Garlic” and “Its Only Bebop”––do not add to the overall work and can be easily skipped. Despite these shortcomings, the overall recording remains a tour de force of composition, improvisation and interpretation, and––fulfilling the promise of the Buddhist prayer flags of the title––is a success.




Mark Moultrup: Man of the 00's

By Herb Boyd

 

Herb Boyd is an author of numerous books on jazz, and has written articles for Jazz Times, Down beat, and The Village Voice.

 

Whether navigating the challenging harmonic contours of a Michel LeGrand composition or

moving at warp speed over one of his own compelling tunes such as "Scree Scramble," Mark

Moultrup is a skilled pianist and stylistic vocalist with an engaging zeal for a variety of soundscapes.  At his command is a diverse repertoire of songs, which are often invested with imaginative classical turns and scintillating dollops of bebop. 

 A hallmark of Moultrup's creativity is his ability to recast a popular standard, giving it an entirely new gloss of tender explosions and nuance.  "Stella by Starlight," a mainstay in his portfolio, may bear only a slight resemblance to its original form after Moultrup applies a fresh interpretation, sometimes removing the cloying sentimentality in exchange for a robust, more redemptive rendering.

 Moultrup has a palette of changing moods at his disposal.  He moves effortlessly from a funky blues motif to Lisztian modes to Monkish moments with no sacrifice to a tune's basic integrity.

 Most intriguing and beguiling are his fabulous pianistic runs, those quickly assembled notes that fall like tinkling icicles on a tin roof.  As a performer, he is capable of fashioning light hearted, hilarious instances, particularly when he's singing in a style reminiscent of Bob Dorough, MoseAllison and Mark Murphy, all at once.

 No matter the context -ensemble or solo- Moultrup seldom surrenders his distinctive taste and intuitive feel for expressive music.  A loving delight emanates when his melodic phrases are paired with a guitarist such as Mike Stern, and he loses none of that luster when standing alone with nothing to support him but his own gifted harmonic sense.

 Detroit is known for a roster of talented pianists-Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Kirk Lightsey, Kenn Cox, Geri Allen and Carlos McKinney-and Moultrup has clearly mastered the unique tone, tempo and sensibility so vital to these artists and their creations.  Even so, there is his singularity, Moultrup's way of revision, refinement and revelation.

 To capture the full import of Moultrup's magic at the keyboards requires more than a few spins of the CD, more than a few nights at a table near him and his ensemble.  But these special moments will have to do since we don't have the same life time he's devoted to a passion that he eagerly and splendidly shares with the world. 

 

                                                                                                                

 

 

 

 

Mark Moultrup - DAR CHO: I'm more than just "impressed" as I sit here listening to Mark's superb compositions (10 of the 13 tracks are all his), & some of that is because of his amazing vocals & lyrics... when integrated with his excellent keyboard chops & the supreme talents for rhythm he displays, tunes like "What About" will make your ears realize that you're listening to a jazz genius (his scats are just killer on this one).  The group is basically a quartet, with Rodney Whitaker's bass, George Fludas' drums & John Wojciechowski's sax/flutes complimenting Mark's keyboards in every way (the guest artists are Kurt Sweitz on arco bass, Michael Levin on flute & Ernie Adams' percussion).  The beauty here is the amount of truly new creative zones you'll hear... nothing is "the same", yet each piece has elements of the driving forces that make jazz our favorite form of music... especially notable on  cuts like "Good Will In The Wind" - each instrument gets their own "15 seconds of fame" on this one, & the rhythms are both intriguing & driving... you just won't believe your ears as you listen to Moultrup's keyboard talent on this one... clearly my favorite on the album!  & of course, I couldn't resist "Avant Garlic", if only for the title... ha! ha!  Actually, this features Mark's vocal talents again, & creates an entirely new energy for vocal jazz... I've said before that jazz singers are "a dime a dozen" - but that's not true with what Mark's doing - his voice is an additional instrument for the ensemble, & he's totally skilled at using it to create new energy for jazz.  This is most assuredly the most entertaining & invigorating CD I've listened to (yet) this year, & it gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the "PICK" of this issue for "most fun jazz"!  The EQ (energy quotient) rating is 4.98 (nearly the top of the scale).  Get more information at www.markmoultrup.com    Rotcod Zzaj

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