The Moore-McColl Jazz Society, Up and Gone Review
by Stamish Malcuss
The Moore-McColl Jazz Society is back with another fine album in the realm of a modern perspective on the 1970s jazz organ/guitar combo; few acts channel the past through a contemporary lens with the conviction and panache of The Moore-McColl Jazz Society. Their latest oeuvre, Up and Gone, is woven with threads of nostalgia and innovation, offering a bold account of the genre’s enduring vitality.
Beth Moore and Chance McColl, Atlanta’s jazz fusion mavericks, invite us into a vivid reconstruction of the 1970s jazz organ/guitar combos, yet their dialogue is not one of mere imitation. The album’s inception is evidence of this—captured live within the storied walls of 800 East Studios, a locale that breathes history into each note. The Moore-McColl Jazz Society’s choice to forgo isolation booths and embrace the raw energy of live collaboration embeds a sense of immediacy and intimacy into their recordings that’s palpable from the outset.
Their debut album, Electric Fantastic, was recorded live at Atlanta’s legendary 800 East Studios. The album was imbued with their vibrant energy, spontaneity, and genuineness. Moore fondly reminisces, “The title track, ‘Electric Fantastic,’ may be my favorite track because it’s got great energy, punchy horns, funky playing with attitude, AND it makes you want to dance.” Moore’s multilayered artistry—ranging from keys to the Rhodes and B3 organ—carves a harmonic path for McColl’s versatile guitar work, from crystalline chords to growling riffs. They not only replicate the groove-centric atmosphere of jazz’s funk-infused era but also infuse it with a modern sensibility that’s unequivocally their own.
McColl, ever the dynamic and introspective artist, notes, “When Beth and I were writing this record, we realized it had much more of a ’70s funk element to it than our first record… We wrote this record together. This gives the record a new voice.” This unity of purpose is palpable, felt in the record’s tight rhythms and balanced harmonies.
The opening track, “What’s Still Happening!!,” is a salute to the ’70s, a decade often seen as the zenith of jazz fusion. The funky groove of the organ is augmented by the rich combined buzz of horns and guitar. Declan Ward turns in a fine alto saxophone solo. Caleb Lattimore’s trumpet solo is very expressive, as McColl’s funky guitar chords support his ideas. It’s followed by “Somebody Calling,” a cover of Robin Trower’s song, showcasing the band’s willingness to venture beyond their comfort zone with overdubbed guitars, a Univibe, and even a talkbox! McColl pulls out all the timbral colors on this one, from clean, funky guitar chords to expressive wah-wah passages; this is a fest of sonics from the guitar chair. His vocals are solid, with an intense blues and funk overtone. His guitar solo is colored with tasteful effects and sustain, building an outstanding solo expression.
“Up and Gone,” the album’s centerpiece, encapsulates this balance—a seamless marriage of retrograde sounds and 21st-century craftsmanship. The gritty B-3 organ, a staple of the ’70s sonic landscape, merges effortlessly with Lattimore’s trumpet—his solo a captivating dance of dexterity and soul. Moore and McColl, in their shared vision, have shaped a piece that is as much a nod to the icons of yore as it is a forward leap into jazz’s potential future.
Then there’s Tim Aucoin’s bass and Joel Morris’ drums, a rhythm section that functions much like the heart in a body—unseen, at times, but utterly vital. Their work, especially notable on “Up and Gone,” is the rhythmic power that drives the album forward, a dynamic pulse that buoys the harmonic interplay above it.
“Sunlit Flower (Against the Sky)” is an introspective pause in this journey, offering a moment of serenity that echoes the contemplative silences of which jazz is so fond. In stark contrast, “Back to Atlanta” is a vibrant homecoming anthem, its straightforward jazz arrangement a homage to McColl’s enduring romance with his hometown. The track’s sincerity embodies jazz as philosophy, where personal narrative informs and elevates artistic expression.
Up and Gone also generously provides a stage for the band’s talented roster in pieces like “Sojourn in A Minor,” where Randy Hunter on saxophone and Justin Powell on trumpet imbue the track with solos that are in the pocket and capture the essence of the groove McColl and Moore craft. Their performances add to the colors and textures within the album’s narrative, drawing from the deep well of their personal artistry.
As the album culminates with “No Apology,” we’re confronted with a brazen celebration of the jazz-funk symbiosis, a track that wears its influences unabashedly yet refuses to be defined by them. The incorporation of a wah-wah pedal, a device some purists might consider anathema to traditional jazz, is a bold statement of the genre’s expansive capabilities—reverent of its roots but unchained to its conventions.
Up and Gone is an evocative gateway to a re-envisioned era of jazz, one that reverberates with the spirit of the ’70s. The Moore-McColl Jazz Society captures this energy while injecting new life into the genre’s timeless core. This album artfully marries the unbridled energy of today with the unmistakable groove of yesteryears, resulting in a creation that radiates both style and substance. It’s a testament to the Society’s ability to forge a sound that is as elegantly nostalgic as it is fiercely modern.