Jazz Notes: Renegade Upright Bassist Miles Mosley Plays Soul to Psychedelic to Jazz With the West Coast Get Down
By Dan Ouellette, Senior Editor ZEALnyc, October 16, 2017
Diversity thematically informed the Monterey Jazz Festival last month with the brilliantly designed programming. Main stage acts honored the jazz masters Diz, Monk, Sonny, Ella. These pleasing sets were played by bona fides who had festival history. Upcoming artists were also invited, including the electronica-spiced GoGo Penguin, rising-star vocalist Kandace Springs and percussionist extraordinaire Pedrito Martinez.
But the most remarkable newcomer outing was string-sawing bassist Miles Mosley, who on opening night electrified Dizzy’s Den with his r&b, funk, jazz and wild-outside rock. It was an iota of jazz driven into the beyond-jazz territory—stretching the boundaries of the idiom’s evolution. Mosley also blazingly headlined the Detroit International Jazz Festival earlier in the month. Close to the end of his set at Monterey, he asked the crowd, “Can you guys tell me if there’s any Jimi Hendrix in my music?” The crowd roared, and in remembrance of the six-string renegade who headlined the Monterey International Pop Festival fifty years earlier, Mosley ripped into “If 6 Were 9.”
Mosley played music from his latest album, Uprising, on jazz label Verve. It was originally released early this year on the indie Alpha Pup/World Galaxy before being scooped up by the major. And good thing. Part soulful, part incendiary, the album is one of the best recordings of 2017. It features Mosley originals that range from r&b balladry to full-steam rock fueled by hip-hop rhythms. Plus Mosley arranges strings and choirs to complement.
Mosley arrives at Le Poisson Rouge with the Los Angeles/South Central collective the West Coast Get Down, which also supports new-jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington. What’s most remarkable about Mosley is how unique his upright bass bow playing is. He plays a hot-wired, get-down electric bass that soars with effects when he bows the four strings to make the instrument sound like a psychedelic six-string straight out of the ’60s. Mosley’s buzz-saw runs fit like a glove into the hip-hop-fueled groove. Plus, he’s a great neo-soul singer who caresses and shakes his own songs.
At Monterey, with his bass center stage and upfront in front of an appreciative audience, the black beret-wearing leader played with brio, muscling his way through tunes that energized the crowd to dance. In a press release for Uprising, Mosley said: “It seems fitting that this new attention to our sound, and the impact that we are capable of making across genres feels like our own uprising. This is my piece of our story. I wanted to create a work that was natural and intimate, but still maintained a sense of grandeur. As if you were best friends with a giant. The West Coast Get Down, the strings, the choir. All of these elements together create something with memorable melodies and a message to the people that we are here for them. We are and want to be the loudspeaker for their hearts.”
Onstage, Mosley soothed out his compelling beauty “Abraham” (pressing down on the concept of mediocrity) with a charged bass fury and then broke into his hometown romance, “L.A. Won’t Bring You Down,” with electric bass grit and funky beat.
The house roared and treated Mosley and co. to a standing ovation. Expect the same at Le Poisson Rouge.
Cover: Miles Mosley; courtesy of artist.