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REGAL 3242; DECEMBER, 1949

 
 

 

Surely at some point in childhood every kid has embarked on a wild and absolutely fruitless quest requiring far more time and effort than is justified for something which has absolutely no chance at succeeding.

But no matter how much adults tell you that you won’t be able to dig a hole through the earth’s core and come out in China on the other side the kid – usually accompanied by equally confident and delusional friends – will get out the shovels and start digging.

An hour later, two or three feet deep at best, they begin to see the folly in it and reluctantly give up, not admitting that their efforts were bound to be in vain but rather that they’ve “decided” they don’t want to keep digging because there’s something better to do that they only just thought of.

Mom looks out the window, sees the activity has stopped – and surely the shovels still laying on the ground with nobody around – and rolls her eyes and knows she’ll probably have to put the tools away and possibly even fill in the hole herself or else it’ll fill up with leaves and rainwater and be an eyesore until the kids finally move away in their early twenties.

Though they didn’t quite follow through on their endeavor to the bitter end they at least had something worth admiring when setting out – they had the utter conviction it would work. As impossible as the task might’ve seemed to others they truly believed that their plans were worth pursuing and that they’d wind up being hailed for their accomplishments once they’d proven everybody wrong.

Whenever you’re trying to buck the odds in any task at any age that’s always the brazen attitude you need to possess, but sadly not all early rock artists coming from other musical backgrounds had that same level of faith in what they were attempting to do.
 

 

Two Speed
It’s hard to be caught between eras. If you were someone who came of age when phones hung on walls and were connected by wires and when the mailbox by the street was your other primary source of interaction with your friends and family, then you surely didn’t jump headfirst into cellphones and text messaging the moment they first appeared.

Why would you? Chances are nobody you were close with were doing so and there seemed no imminent danger of the enduring methods of communication you’d been using for years disappearing in your lifetime.

But by 2019 those things have disappeared. Not entirely maybe but for all intents and purposes you’d be intentionally cutting yourself off from the rest of society the longer you remain stuck in the past when it comes to how you’re willing to connect with people.

In the late 1940’s there was a lot of this going on. Airplanes were replacing trains for long distance travel. The first computers were already being invented thereby changing the way basic tasks could be dealt with. Television was starting to take hold after decades of radio being the dominant form of home entertainment. It probably goes without saying that surely many families resisted the cries of their kids to go out and buy one of those contraptions because the adults in the household thought it was completely unnecessary when you already had a radio, indignantly claiming to one and all that TV was just a fad and in a few years that giant wooden box with a glass screen in the middle would stand covered in dust on the living room floor as an expensive testament to impetuous foolishness.

Seven decades later their middle aged descendants probably resisted cutting the cord to cable or satellite television for the exact same reason, thinking that streaming was a gimmick or a fad as well, all while their kids couldn’t understand why their parents were so out of touch. Hey, it runs in the family, just as down the road the ones who made the first leap into the last new frontier will resist the NEXT newer frontier. That’s just how things work.

But let’s return our focus to 1947-1949 and the changes taking place then, many of which were met with resistance from the establishment at the same time they were eliciting excitement from the younger generation, none more so than the shift in music.
 


 

Torque Converter
For Wild Bill Moore the rise of rock ‘n’ roll in late 1947 provided him with his best opportunity to make a name for himself, especially when it was the tenor saxophone that seemed best able to deliver the rousing histrionics the listeners of this new music were increasingly demanding.

Along with his baritone playing cohort at Savoy, Paul Williams, the two men helped to stake out the new terrain early on and were amply rewarded for it with a string of hits they played on together. But for all of their importance in establishing the new raunchier sound of these horns they both were holdovers from a style that was much more restrained and which had no trouble finding a welcoming audience in the recent past. Who was to say that they were truly committed to rock ‘n’ roll in their heart of hearts?

Each has loads of mounting evidence to show this might very well have been the case all along, as for every genuine gritty side with both feet planted firmly in the rock soil, they each released sides that hearkened back to another type of approach, one much less forward thinking than the work which ultimately would define them. But in 1949, though they’d enjoyed the acclaim those hits got them, they probably didn’t think their images had been set in stone yet and if they could use their popularity gotten from their rock efforts to sell their non-rock sides, or at least the sides which weren’t as devout in their rock attributes, who was to say that those wouldn’t connect too and return them to a more sensible musical outlook?

Thus in Dynaflow we have yet another example of Wild Bill Moore hedging his bets, giving us some of what we desire and have come to expect as rock fans and mixing it with milder and more archaic ideas we thought we’ve left behind us in the jazz and pop circles of yesteryear.
 


 
 

The record tips off its intentions… okay, it loudly declares those intentions right away… as the group horn introduction sounds as if it was a more boisterous rejected take of Stan Kenton’s 1946 pop hit Shoo Fly Pie And Apple Pan Dowdy which, in case you’re unfamiliar with it, is about as cheerfully square and unhip as its title suggests.

The main riff of Moore’s song comes early on and is repeated in the closing was clearly their idea of delivering a memorable hook to act as its calling card, but while it certainly does that it is also the least compelling feature of the entire record, a cacophony of upper register horns colliding with one another until you want to stab your eardrums with an ice-pick.

The baritone’s interjections at the end of each line are about all that rescue this early stretch from sending us scurrying under the bed.. if not leaping out a sixth story window.

Things improve slightly when Moore himself first comes into the picture, playing something a little more suitable to our aesthetics but he’s hardly the most prominent horn in the first minute of the arrangement. He cedes to the other instruments – even the trumpet gets a standalone spot – and while Moore’s bandmates might appreciate his magnanimous gesture it hardly makes for a compelling record.

Basically with all of these ill-fitting components crowding each other out of the picture it loses focus and becomes a song without a place to call home.
 

Automatic Transmission
Let’s try and be fair here… or as fair as we can be when presented with a song that is as compromised as Dynaflow clearly is. Moore has been recording for the last four years or so, not just playing on his own records but those of others as well, and unlike records with vocals which can simply come up with different stories and lyrics to differentiate them from one another, instrumentals have fewer components with which to work in order to give them each a unique identity.

He knows that the more stimulating he plays the more its likely to connect with rock fans, but in his mind there’s not much variation to that approach. Honk, squeal and repeat. It’s essentially saxophones as shampoo – wash, rinse, repeat. Naturally it tends to get old after awhile if that’s all you’re doing.

So he probably figures if he brings in other horns and steps aside for a bit to allow them to offer a different perspective, tweaking the formula through their tonal differences, he might be onto something. If nothing else it will at least shake things up in the midst of two dozen or so tracks he’s cut since being drafted into the league of rock musicians.

In theory anyway he might have a point. It’s not smart to follow a strict blueprint each time out after all, one of the things that rock celebrates most over the years is taking chances and breaking new ground. But if you are going to try something different it helps if it’s actually a lot more creative than what’s shown here. In fact the title, Dynaflow, surely not named by him personally, was the only aspect of this which showed any inspiration, let alone providing a scant bit of evidence that they were even aiming at the right audience to begin with. For those not hip to the ancient past of motor vehicles, that was the name of a popular automatic transmission introduced the year before by Buick which greatly improved shifting in cars, a sign of the postwar need for speed and power, two things that rock fans also had a desire for in their music.

Unfortunately Moore might’ve been better off driving a car than playing a horn in this case for when Wild Bill takes center stage for the minute and a half which comprises the middle section of this two and a half minute journey the resulting sound isn’t anything but tedious and boring at best. He’s not giving us much of anything for us to latch onto, melodically, rhythmically or in terms of wild pyrotechnics. In car parlance he’s remaining stuck in first gear, his tires barely moving.

Just for the heck of it let’s run down a few of the adjectives we could apply to his playing here and see if they hold any interest for a rock fan reared on the more explosive sounds he’s delivered in the past himself, let alone the more aggressive work of others he’s competing with.

Spry… jaunty… whimsical… pleasant… carefree… distracted… mildly adventurous… vague… meandering… ponderous… unfocused… content.

THAT’S THE ONE… he’s content.

Moore is playing with the knowledge that he’s scored some hits and has already made his mark on the music world, that he’s gotten his name well known enough to be given a multitude of chances, as evidenced by this being his fifth quality record company he’s recorded for in the past year, and on top of it all he’s pretty well respected for his ability by other musicians, producers and the public at large.

He’s content with where he is.

But we’re not. Not anymore. We want more than what he’s showing lately and if he won’t give it to us we know where to turn in order to get it.

Try any of the following: Big Jay McNeely. Red Prysock. Frank “Floorshow” Culley. Batman Rankins. James Von Streeter. Maxwell Davis. This new kid Joe Houston maybe. Even Moore’s old pal Paul Williams. All of them – and more – haven’t wavered in their approach nearly as much as Moore has of late and as a result we’re far more likely to buy their records and leave the ones by Wild Bill Moore sitting undisturbed on the shelf.
 

Engine Trouble
It’d be one thing if Moore was turning away from us completely and saying he wanted to be a jazz musician, as others we’ve come to admire around here will do in the near future, at least that would be a musical declaration of intent, loud and clear.

But that’s not what Moore is doing exactly.

Instead he seems lost. Directionless. Almost uninterested in trying to compete in any specific field.

Maybe he’s just in a slump. After all, his last release on Savoy, Rockin’ With Leroy, another good title masking an underwhelming product, was actually cut two years ago before he’d even scored a rock hit, so we can’t view that in the same light as this because they were created at different points in his career. And can you really tie these in with the track on Sensation that preceded it in the release schedule this past fall, Football Boogie, which also fell well short of scoring a touchdown since they were all recorded for different companies as opposed to being a trend indicative of his overall mindset.

Unless…

Unless they were his more permanent mindset all along and it was those more storming tracks alongside Williams, like The Twister, or Moore’s own boldest efforts We’re Gonna Rock and Rock And Roll, which were the aberrations all along. The more of these underpowered misfires of his started to pile up the more likely that was indeed the case.

For us in the rock kingdom this was a shame, for he truly had excelled on those best sides he’d done in the past. But those were records in which he had more than likely been successfully coaxed into creating something outside his own comfort zone. Now that he had the leverage to do as he pleased he was reverting back to milder songs with fuzzy stylistic boundaries because that’s what made the most sense to him personally. It’s nothing against OUR tastes he’d assure us, but that’s just what he felt most comfortable doing.
 

 
Oh well, we have no way of proving either explanation is anything more than theory I suppose. He’s not around to ask anymore and with him making so many records for so many companies we have no way of knowing who requested what out of him along the way and if Dynaflow was something he really felt strongly about and had high hopes for.

But sooner or later we’ll be able to come to at least a reasonable conclusion as to his prevailing interests if only because his larger body of work will reveal some definite trends and then whichever direction is most prevalent will almost certainly be the one where his true musical heart lay.

We’ll wait until that time to make a final decision but as of late he’s definitely trending downward. Here’s hoping he can pull himself back up because what he gave us at his most inspired was just about worth tolerating this kind of musical gibberish but we’d hate to have to suffer through this in vain.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Wild Bill Moore for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)