Sunday, January 17, 2016

Moon Hooch at the Mercury Lounge

Saxophonist Mike Wilbur was raised in Massachusetts, drummer James Muschler in Ohio and saxophonist Wenzl McGowen grew up in several European countries. The three musicians met while attending the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. There, the Brooklyn-based trio became Moon Hooch and began playing dance-oriented percussion- and saxophone-based music on subway platforms. The frequent impromptu raves grew so wild that the local police precinct ultimately banned the band from playing underground in hipster Williamsburg. Moon Hooch's second album, This Is Cave Music, was released in 2014.

The Mercury Lounge offered a proper stage and sound system tonight, and so Moon Hooch went legit. Between songs, the musicians played brief free-jazz interludes, but for most of the concert they played uptempo party music. Like a fine jazz band, the three musicians weaved a tapestry of minimalistic music that was lively and energetic. Muschler played muscular, complex rhythms, McGowen often anchored a thick bass line on baritone sax or contrabass clarinet, and Wilbur jammed trance-inducing melodies on tenor sax. The majority of the set was instrumental, but Wilbur sporadically sang and rapped. The horn players also manipulated distortion occasionally by synthesizing the saxes or by adding found objects to the bells of their instruments. The performance was as fascinating to watch as to hear.

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