Jazz Notes: Trumpeter Maurice Brown’s ‘Mobetta Tuesdays’ Residency at Jazz Standard—A Terrific Shot in the Arm for a Stale Jazz Landscape
By Dan Ouellette, Senior Editor ZEALnyc, March 10, 2017
A common shout-out in the jazz community shakes down to “Keep Jazz Alive!” (Have you heard this term being overused on jazz radio stations during fundraising time?) But too often that call-to-action is coming from the aisles of jazz traditionalists, those who are desperate to keep the icons of jazz like John Coltrane and Duke Ellington in the present-day vernacular. Certainly, jazz is America’s gift to the world, but caution must be heeded: It’s not music that can be too institutionalized (in the terms of some, put safely into a museum), but music that celebrates freedom of expression.
The tributes to the elders of the jazz legacy are important (think the series of concerts honoring the centennial birthdays of Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk this year). They remind us of where the music has come from historically. But what’s unfortunately largely missing is the continuum of the past to the future. And what’s particularly void is the reaching out to a new audience where the jazz of old simply does not resonate.
So it’s bust-out time for jazz venues, which is exactly the reason behind the Jazz Standard’s forward-looking, multi-stylistic seven-week residency “Mobetta Tuesdays,” curated by boundary-busting trumpeter/composer/arranger/producer Maurice “Mobetta” Brown. He’s promising to present a compelling mix of jazz, jam, blues-rock and hip-hop. Each week will focus on different themes with a new all-star group of his wide array of friends. “I see this as an opportunity to bring the music community together, to get musicians together who normally don’t play together,” Brown says. “I want to make it fresh and inspiring.”
“This is something I’ve been wanting to do to complement our Monday night residency of the Mingus Big Band,” says artistic director Seth Abramson who has proven since 1999 that he is the most adventurous club booker/programmer of straight-up jazz acts as well as newcomers in the city. “Jazz is inclusive. Historically it incorporates what’s going on at the time. And doing that helps the current generation relate to it. This is what growing the audience for jazz is all about. You relate to what’s happening today without dumbing the music down.”
As for bringing Brown into the mix, Abramson says, “Maurice has an endless supply of ideas, and he’s not confined by musical boundaries. He’s always open and in his own music crosses over from r&b, rap, roots music, rock, soul, hip-hop. It’s a path he has taken. Early on, even before I believe Robert Glasper was doing it, Maurice was incorporating hip-hop into his music. I’ve seen him play a lot and people go crazy. He’s got that special kind of cool that connects with the audience. And so many different artists in so many different areas enjoy working with him. And what people are really attracted to in playing with him is that he’s fearless as a musician.”
The New Orleans-born, Brooklyn-based trumpeter got his nickname when he was in New Orleans, pre-Katrina, and playing in a number of different bands. “It happened naturally,” he says. “One day at a gig, I was introduced as Mobetta and it just stuck.” He broke into the recording world with his superb debut, Hip to Bop, in 2004 and performed it at with a throw-down jazz style at the Jazz Standard. Later he formed the underground hip-hop/funk combo, Soul’d Out, and recorded with such stars as Aretha Franklin, Wyclef Jean, De La Soul, Macy Gray, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Lettuce and The Roots.
Then Brown took a new turn, going on the road for five years-plus with the blues-rock Tedeschi Trucks Band led by the wife-husband team of singer Susan Tedeschi and monster guitarist Derek Trucks. But today, he’s happy to return to his old free-wheeling ways. “I just had to stop,” Brown says. “All good things must come to an end. Seth had talked with me about doing something different at the Standard, but I was always too busy. It started out as a possibility of doing a residency once a month, but we changed it to every Tuesday. I’m pretty excited because I’m putting together a program with different people for each show that will feature different music. All the people I’ll be enlisting I have a personal relationship with—mentors and friends that will get together to jam.”
The series will open on March 14 with Brown celebrating his fine soul-hip-hop new jazz album, The Mood (on the Mobetta Music label) and end on April 25 with Soul’d Out—The Finale bubbling over with a ton of ebullient jam band party music. Other themes include Love Potion (March 21), Electric Ride (March 28), Pass The Peas (April 4), The New Standard (April 11), Straight No Chaser (April 18). During the residency Brown will be inviting top-notch artists, including Marcus Strickland (tenor sax), Snarky Puppy’s Michael League (bass), Ben Williams (bass), Lenny White (drums), Nir Felder (guitar), Skerik (tenor sax), Marcus Gilmore (drums), Christie Dashiell (vocals), Jaleel Shaw (alto sax).
“Each night will have a different synergy,” says Brown. “In this political climate where you don’t know what’s going to happen, this is going to be almost like church. It’s going to be lit.” He switches metaphors and adds, “We’re going to knock it out of the water.”
For young and adventurous listeners who sometimes feel the jazz zone is a bit restrictive and even predictable, Mobetta Tuesdays could well be the answer to the survival of a vibrant jazz life.
“Maurice is excited and passionate,” says Abramson, who notes that as a programmer of the club’s schedule he also brings in the greats of today’s straight-ahead jazz such as recently George Coleman and coming up Kenny Barron. But he’s psyched to see how this residency flies. “Mobetta Tuesdays is all coming together organically. It’s not a marketing ploy. And Maurice is not biting off more than he chew. He’s not a talker who doesn’t deliver. The trust is there.”
Cover: Maurice “Mobetta” Brown; photo: Zach Gross