How does one easily express a larger idea? It’s been three years since keyboardist Eddie Moore and his group the Outer Circle released The Freedom of Expression, and now the building of new, impressionable material for the next one had to commence. Glimmers showed up in live performances over three years and now is the time for this collection of songs circulated around the sprawling but regal song triptych that is “Kings and Queens” have proven that it may have taken some doing to get here but their ever-present soulfulness in their play always makes it sound easy.
For some years, I have tried to put my finger exactly on what these guys sound like, what their secret is. Even upon meeting Moore and hearing him in person when the group played Nextbop’s SXSW day party earlier this year, witnessing his laid back composure, seeing the camaraderie of this band, hearing such a cool sound still seems understandable but still inexplicable. They totally had to have played some churches on Sunday morning in Kansas City, Missouri, though.
The three movements of “Kings and Queens” start off the album, chanting making way for Pat Adams’ impressive drumming. It’s a hell of an opening statement and it keeps it up through the song’s twists and turns. The first movement is one of angularity that feels more like rolling down the road with curves more than turns. The second, more bluesy; the third a triumphant, sultry return. Each of these parts function on their own, they also all top right minutes. They’re large ideas and they walks around the park, but they never feel explicitly that way. They’re good grooves and this band sounds fantastic, but one would be remiss not to acknowledge the compositional feat going on here. There’s nothing over intellectual here, nothing at all approaching a whiff of pretension, these dudes are playing jazz with soul and R&B elements here. However, there’s real depth here that intrigues as much as it earnestly satisfies. It’s hard to my finger on it.
The rest of this album sticks to your ribs in the same manner. “The L.B.C.” rolls along like a summer day and guitarist Adam Schlozman’s solo grabs the ear and never lets go, unless it were to waver once more to Adams’ shimmering comping on drums. However, its minor turn to Moore’s solo is equally surprising. Daniel Robinson’s saxophone on “Aural Denial” and “School Blues” is a surprise but fits perfectly with the sound here. It’s a different configuration for this band more than an addition. Schlozman’s composition “Bathroom Wardrobe” is even sweeter now than when it appeared on their Live in Kansas City album of last year.
The other songs here all serve the album quite well, adding to this overall vibe, in particular their cover of Erykah Badu’s “Time’s A Wastin'” (though for some reason, they added the “g” back to “Wastin'” much to my Texan chagrin). It’s a version that takes a while to get where it’s going but once Moore opens up at the second section, the walls come down. This stands to reason, it’s written quite well to allow for such endless expansion, but after that it’s all in the hands of the players. Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle — Kansas City’s modern examples of constantly entertaining, restrained, disciplined, expressive, masterful, soulful (it can’t be said too many times) ambassadors of that sound you can’t get enough of but still can’t quite put your finger on — are just the right hands to execute such a composition, to walk out that idea and larger ones, and to make it all look so easy.
Kings & Queens, the sophomore album from Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle, is out now on Ropeadope.
Eddie Moore – Piano /Rhodes/Synth
Adam Scholzman – Guitar
Pat Adams – Drums
Deandre Manning – Electric Bass
Daniel Robinson – Alto Sax
Recording Engineer: Duane Trower at Weights & Measures
Mastering Engineer: Lindesay
Nextbop Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current.