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Album Review

Over many decades of jazz singing, vocal summits have been formed to record, tour, then vanish as one-shots. Moss are a collaborative effort of five vocalists that hopefully will have a shelf life beyond this noteworthy CD. Luciana Souza and Kate McGarry are the most prominent singers, followed by Theo Bleckmann, Peter Eldridge, and the pleasant surprise of the group, Lauren Kinhan. They blend timbres, melt into chorus and lyric refrains, allow ample space for one another, and adopt an improvisational ideal within fairly structured frameworks. The women dominate the majority of the tunes by sheer numbers and upper stratospheric octaves, which reflect a wide variety of human emotions. McGarry's feature on Neil Young's "Old Man" is especially poignant given the nature of the tune. Souza's "Home" is a ballad longing for place and comfort, while Kinhan's "Lavaliere" is a tribute to the light blue spectrum. Bleckmann's take on the Tom Waits tune "Take It with Me" is typically introspective and oblique, while Eldridge is getting over a broken love affair on "Busy Being Blue." The group collaborations feature a spontaneous combination of scat, oohs, ahhs, and wordless swing during "These Things Take Time," a spacy counterpoint in layers on the devotional "I Carry Your Heart with Me (I Carry It In)," and a short evocative lyric with long tones during "Orchard." "There Alone Go I" is a folkish waltz, the three women pine on the bluesy "Object Devotion," and Bleckmann rears a 3/4 stairstep module with vocal loops over bass clarinet and cello on the chamber-like "Longing." Included as bookends are two separate observations of Joni Mitchell's "Shadows and Light," the first a choral union with counter-lines and solos, the latter a critique of critics. Electric guitarist Ben Monder and pianist Eldridge play significant instrumental roles in lifting the singing on high. A unique project unto itself, Moss hopefully will grow upon a tour and roll into a prospective second recording as intriguing and thoughtful as this one. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Moss, Moss
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