No tags :(

Share it

MODERN 20-687; JULY, 1949



A few artists to this point have managed to rise from the lower rungs of the depth charts on the rock ‘n’ roll team roster to make the starting lineup and quite possibly even earned their way onto the All-Star team in the process.

All of them have been saxophonists.

Part of this is due the nature of the instrument itself, a supporting player in larger studio ensembles that proved capable of handling lead roles and part of it is because the lead roles in rock ‘n’ roll had proven particularly amenable to the gaudiest horn in the brass section’s arsenal.

So Wild Bill Moore, along with Hal Singer and Eddie Chamblee, went from being anonymous and mostly uncredited sidemen to headlining stars in short order once the demand for what they were capable of delivering grew exponentially in the rock marketplace.

Now there have certainly been others who emerged seemingly from out of nowhere over the past two years, including some big names from Wynonie Harris to Dave Bartholomew, but the sudden demand for honking sax players created opportunities galore for those willing to shed their inhibitions on record.

Arguably none of them had the résumé for this that Wild Bill Moore had. His tenor had acted as a ballast to Paul Williams’s baritone in the initial run of hit instrumentals credited to Williams and so it was only natural that in an effort to double the returns they were already getting Savoy Records would split the releases between them, even as both men were playing on all of them.

But with added recognition comes more opportunity for stardom and, well I was going to say money but we know that was never the case, and so Wild Bill Moore jumped to Modern Records earlier this year to make a go of it. Whaddaya know, his first time out for them he cemented his position as one of rock’s leading practitioners, one of its most prominent advocates when it came to spreading the name Rock And Roll itself.

So of course on his follow up, Primavera, he promptly throws his musical allegiances into complete disarray.

Not for the first time (and surely not for the last time either) we’re talking about the title of an instrumental record in an effort to understand the artist and record label’s mindset. Usually though it’s a little more straightforward than this.

The word “primavera” means spring, which is probably all it was intended to mean by Moore, or whoever at Modern gave it this name. Then again it may not have been chosen to mean anything at all, other than a word that rolls off the tongue and sounds phonetically intriguing.

We’ve said before that instrumental records often had titles that were little more than attention getters, often using a term that would connect it to the target audience, such as food (Cornbread) or drink (Pot Likker). Other times it was used as a form of self advertising, such as for Johnny Otis’s Watts nightclub – Midnight At The Barrelhouse. More crassly it was often used as a form of payola to disc jockeys – Bouncing With Benson, which Moore played on, among them.

So Primavera wouldn’t seem to fit any of that reasoning. But the word also raises another possibility, namely that it – and thus the music itself – has a South American connection.

South Of The Border
Under normal circumstances this would be a stretch of extreme proportions, and I’ll admit that it STILL might be an outlandish reach, but Primavera is a common name for cities and provinces in South America. Brazil has two such locales and Chile, Peru and Columbia all have places with that name.

No big deal, right?

I mean, even if it were named after any one of them, or all of them, it’s no different than artists naming songs for any other place and who really cares WHAT it’s named if the song has no lyrics to expound on the subject?

Normally that’d be true. But when listening to Primavera the first thing that jumps out is the rather unique mélange of sonic textures that are reminiscent of another place.

WHAT place specifically I’m not entirely sure, but it sounds as if it’s vaguely South American at times. Whether this was associated with anything connected to the regional sounds from anywhere across that continent in 1949 I’m even less certain, but whatever the source of its musical mood it definitely comes across as far more exotic to American ears than most of what was being released on rock ‘n’ roll records of that time.

Kicking off with a stuttering interlocking percussion and a disembodied shout the first seven seconds certainly conjures up someplace other than Detroit where Moore was from, or Los Angeles where Modern Records was located. It’s immediately captivating however and has you hoping that it continues and expands on this feel when the other instruments come in.

But once Moore makes his first appearance all of that fades away as his horn sounds exactly as you’d expect it to considering his background in the United States… and jazz in particular. There may be a little more grit to his playing to connect it with rock sensibilities at this point but the winding melody itself is pleasant rather than potent. The rhythm pattern is still audible underneath but no longer taking center stage and so the atmosphere it conjured up so vividly to start with recedes considerably.

There’s still nothing bad about this even if Moore’s entrance is a bit of a let-down compared to what came before it, but if it’s bad that you want, just stick around because thirty seven seconds in the pianist they absconded with from a cotillion dance down the street will make you wish you had hopped on a plane to take you out of the country, across the equator and into hiding for that matter.

For fifteen excruciating seconds he and the bassist transport you to a world of white ties and tails and cocktail dresses where noses are perched upwards at a 45 degree angle by societal decree. Having to make on the fly adjustments to sudden jazz interludes is hard enough for a rock fan, but this is something even beyond that, as at least jazz has musical merit to reasonably admire. This monstrosity however has you looking around for the waiter with a tray of drinks, hoping you can swill about three or four of them before he heads to off to the gray haired coterie of British barristers who are throwing this shindig under crystal chandeliers.

Then, just as you’re ready to feign food poisoning or dive off the 14th floor balcony into the swimming pool to make your escape, Moore returns with a gang of ruffians to break this party up.


Up Is Down, Down Is Up
If at this point you don’t know what’s going on, you’re not alone. A better title for this would’ve been “Jekyll & Hyde” because the way it’s careening back and forth between moods and playing styles it’s a wonder the band and listener all don’t have whiplash.

Moore’s playing for the next stretch brings it squarely back into the rock realm as he starts off with some milder playing before ripping off some startlingly aggressive interludes with no warning. But then just as suddenly he drops back into something more modest, almost as if he’s being jerked back and forth by two warring factions of music fans, one demanding loud and raunchy, the other insisting upon tame and melodic.

As is usually the case in those situations neither side wins… least of all those of us asked to sit through it as casual observers.

Obviously those of us on the rock side of the fence are clamoring for more of the boisterous sounds and when he delivers that brand of bedlam, as he does pretty consistently after the two minute mark complete with the best and most forceful drumming we’ve encountered on this, then we’re pretty satisfied. Had they stuck to that for the entire song, or even just the lion’s share of the record, we’d have definitely recommended this with no reservations.

Had they somehow figured out a way to do so while maintaining the most captivating stretch found in the opening then we’d have been proclaiming Primavera a masterpiece and wondering who and what was responsible for such an exhilarating arrangement. But that mesmerizing intro never is revisited and then the best stretches of Moore’s lusty playing is book-ended by his worst stretches of moldy uninteresting playing.

Even at the close, instead of bringing things to a rousing conclusion as they finally seemed to be heading, they pull the rug out from underneath you and return to the earlier melodic passages that have the older couples swaying dreamily along to it, half asleep.

Gone are the drums. Gone are the intoxicating poly-rhythms. Gone is the exertion on the part of the musicians.

Gone too is your interest and our patience.

Seasonal Creep
Whatever the source of inspiration for Primavera it must’ve been a fleeting one. While it lasted it was worth the price of admission. It was even worth sitting through the parts seemingly grafted onto the record from another band and another performance in another setting altogether.

But as for listening to it as a cohesive piece of music, one where each part has to flow naturally into the next and build upon the best parts or at least make you not lose interest during the weaker parts, this can’t possibly hope to do that.

It’s a record that suggests all sorts of things at times, creativity and experimentation as well as a lack of judgment and utter boredom at having to cut a seemingly endless stream of records for an unsophisticated audience they might have been wearying of trying to appeal to.

Not surprisingly when all of that is mixed together you wind up with an uneven listening experience and a highly schizophrenic record.

If you’re Wild Bill Moore this is when you think back fondly to the days when you were but an anonymous uncredited sideman, secure in your anonymity. Though you may have bemoaned the fact you weren’t getting the credit for what worked on the good stuff you also weren’t getting blamed for what didn’t when things went wrong.

Here there’s no one to blame but Moore himself. Stardom has its price after all.


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