Venue 505, August 22
If there is a goddess of music she was smiling on this. Ra-Kalam Bob Moses has been among jazz’s key drummers for 50 years, his associates including Pharoah Sanders, Roland Kirk, Pat Metheny and Gary Burton. In the heady 1960s his regular collaborators included Sydney pianist Mike Nock, then based in New York. Nock, meanwhile, has enjoyed a fruitful alliance with the much younger local bassist Cameron Undy, and it was this trio-for-a-night upon which that putative goddess smiled.
All performance art demands shrugging aside self-consciousness. Crucially in improvisation this allows the music to flow unimpeded by imposed decision-making or by such negative thoughts as self-doubt. Moses was the apotheosis of the musician who has eliminated self-consciousness. The music flowed through him with the ease of a breeze through an open window.
He played an eccentric drum-kit with singular fluidity and a child-like joy that disguised the sophistication at work. He teased and caressed the instrument with assorted implements other than conventional sticks, and often used his hands, as at the outset, when the effect was akin to distant thunder. He routinely shaped his notes so they had an improbably vocal quality, and often accompanied his playing with spontaneous singing, chanting and vocal percussion.
Moses’ rapport with Nock was rekindled almost immediately, while that with Undy quickly developed, and by the second set this was sounding like an established band. Any awkward or meandering moments in the first set held their own interest, however, as we witnessed players of this calibre swiftly papering over the cracks, and then conjuring from nowhere dazzling murals on that paper.
Most of the material was freely improvised, with Jim Pepper’s mysterious Witchi-Tai-To and Sam Rivers’ beautiful Beatrice slipped in among the improvisations. The abiding memory will be of one who has elevated himself to a zone of music-making somewhere beyond the mechanical manipulation of an instrument. His joy was contagious.