Grachan Moncur III
One of the first trombonists to explore free jazz, Grachan Moncur III is still best-known for his pair of innovative Blue Note albums (1963-1964) that also featured Lee Morgan and Jackie McLean on the first session and Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock on the later date. The son of bassist Grachan Moncur II, who played with the Savoy Sultans during 1937-1945, Grachan III started on trombone when he was 11. He toured with Ray Charles (1959-1962), was with the Jazztet (1962), and in 1963, played advanced jazz with Jackie McLean. Moncur toured with Sonny Rollins (1964) and played and recorded with Marion Brown, Joe Henderson, and Archie Shepp, matching up with fellow trombonist Roswell Rudd in the latter group. He also was part of the cooperative band 360 Degree Music Experience with Beaver Harris. Grachan Moncur, who has also recorded as a leader for BYG (1969) and JCOA (1974), continues to play challenging music and has been an educator. Some of his associations have been with Frank Lowe (1984-1985), Cassandra Wilson (1985), and the Paris Reunion Band.
© Scott Yanow /TiVo
© Scott Yanow /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1963 | Blue Note (BLU)
One of the New Thing's extremely few trombonists and a greatly underappreciated composer of tremendous evocative power, Grachan Moncur III got his first major exposure on Jackie McLean's groundbreaking 1963 masterpiece, One Step Beyond. Toward the end of the year, most of the same musicians reconvened for Moncur's debut as a leader, Evolution; McLean, vibist Bobby Hutcherson, and drummer Tony Williams are all back, with Bob Cranshaw on bass and an extra voice in trumpeter Lee Morgan, moonlighting from his usual groovy hard bop style. While Moncur takes a little more solo space here, the main emphasis is on his talent as a composer. The four originals are all extended, multi-sectioned works (the shortest is around eight minutes), all quite ambitious, and all terrifically moody; much of the album sounds sinister and foreboding, and even the brighter material has a twisted, surreal fun-house undercurrent. Part of that is due to the accuracy with which the musicians interpret Moncur's vision. Hutcherson provides his trademark floating chordal accompaniment, which is crucial to the overall texture; what's more, the album features some of McLean's weirdest playing ever, and some of Morgan's most impressively advanced, as he makes the most of a situation he longed to be in more often. Of the pieces, "Monk in Wonderland" is the most memorable; its whimsical, angular theme is offset by Hutcherson's mysterious vibes, which create a trippy effect in keeping with the title. "Air Raid" is alternately ominous and terrifyingly frantic, and the funereal title track keeps time only in the pulse of the horns and the backing, which is based entirely on whole notes. With such an inventive debut, it's a shame Moncur didn't record more as a leader, which makes Evolution an even more important item for fans of Blue Note's avant-garde to track down. © Steve Huey /TiVo