aus / from: Down Beat 36 (30. Oktober 1969) p. 22

John McDonough: Moondog - Columbia

Rating ****

This music is essentially classical in conception and purpose, but it is clear that the composer-conductor has absorbed a strong feeling for the contemporary. Although he maintains his heart is not in jazz, it has seeped into his consciousness and enhances much of this LP. With each hearing it becomes a richer pleasure.

Moondog is the pseudonym of Louis Hardin, 53, who is blind, writes all his music in braille, and enjoyed some popularity in jazz circles during the early '50s.

Initially, Symphonique #6 makes the strongest impression. In a sense, it is nothing more than a simple 8-bar figure raised to the 17th power, on what is called a ground. The Theme is introduced by the bass, then is picked up by the clarinet (it was conceived in 1955 as a dedication to Benny Goodman), then a duo of violas, then the bassoon and so on until it builds to a 17-part counterpoint. The effect is stunning and must be heard.

Lament 1, which honors Charlie Parker, is not an attemp to orchestrate the swirls and whiplashes of Bird's style. It's a simple four-bar figure which becomes a tapestry for a free melodic line played by alto and baritone saxophones. Hardin and Bird knew each other, and even talked once about doing an album together. It's too bad it never materialized. His salute to Parker haunts the mind.

The opening track, Theme is another ground, this time using a basic, 16-bar theme in 5/4 time. It has a sweeping, almost pastoral quality to it, although unfortunately it fails to develop to a logical conclusion.

Minisym is a short work in three parts, alternating between the snappy and the lyrical in 4/4 time. The rhythms are infectious, with an especially appropriate interlude using a trio of bassoons.

Moondog adheres to the disciplines of traditional tonality throughout, but yet achieves an adventurous musical experience that is very much of today - perhaps because his tools are the basic ones, producing a sound for all seasons. There is much here that jazz lovers, especially those bending toward the mainstream, should find stimulating, even though this is not a jazz or "swing" package. Recommended.