The Eleventh Hour: Live at the Green Mill
New York City may be where jazz musicians go to seek stardom, but Chicago is no Second City for those looking to work. That lesson’s clear to guitarist John Moulder, who teaches at nearby Northwestern University (where he earned a master’s in music) and has crafted a 20-year recording career, culminating in the banner work on The Eleventh Hour: Live at the Green Mill.
Captured live at the venerable uptown cocktail lounge, Moulder’s quintet comprises some of the Windy City’s top talents: multi-saxophonist Geof Bradfield, pianist Jim Trompeter, bassist Larry Gray and drummer Paul Wertico. The guitarist’s opening “Proclamation of the Unexpected” reads like a warning, but sounds like a modern jazz standard. Bradfield (on tenor), a clean-toned Moulder, Trompeter and Wertico take stellar breaks, with Gray expertly shifting the timbre of his breakneck upright-bass line to accentuate each soloist.
Moulder’s compositions cut a wide swath. He adds a modicum of hollow-bodied distortion to the evocative, 5/8-timed “African Sunset,” also highlighted by Bradfield’s soprano sax and Wertico’s controlled cacophony. The former Pat Metheny drummer has employed Moulder in his own trio for 15 years, and the guitarist’s stately intro to “Cold Sea Triptych,” as well as his solo on “Gateway,” reveal Metheny’s influence.
A 12-minute epic, the title track shifts between 11/8 and 6/8 time to showcase Trompeter’s pianistic ambidexterity and outstanding solos by Moulder and Bradfield (once again on tenor). Wertico uses brushes and mallets, respectively, to shade quieter numbers like the acoustic “Magical Space” and the guitarist’s expansive tone poem, “Creation.” His drum solo then leads to the exclamation point of “Time Being,” a shape-shifting closing statement to a deft, broad-shouldered performance that matches anything the Big Apple has to offer.
— Bill Meredith