Alphonse Mouzon: Virtue
Alphonse Mouzon (drums, percussion, keyboards)
Virtue (MPS 15498)
Welton Gite (electric bass).
Composed by Alphonse Mouzon.
Recorded: Stuttgart, Germany, November 1976
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
I hope MPS plans on continuing its CD reissue binge. As I write this, MPS has recently reissued for the first time on CD several outstanding albums from the likes of Jan Hammer, Stu Goldberg, and Alphonse Mouzon. It seems that MPS is sitting on a goldmine of early fusion music recorded in Europe. Keep it up guys! Send everything our way.
Drummer Alphonse Mouzon put together some fine band for this 1976 outing. Saxophonist Gary Bartz was better known as a jazz player than fusionist. (Several years later, he released a toned-down version of "Giant Steps" that met some commercial success because of its accessibility.) But as evidenced by his performance on this album, Bartz could play jazz-rock well enough, thank you. Keyboardist Stu Goldberg was a known jazz-rock commodity, being right in the middle of the movement, appearing in various John McLaughlin bands. His pedigree was solid. Bassist Welton Gite was relatively new to the business, starting his career in earnest just a year before this recording. He would go on to much success as a touring bassist playing across all genres.
In fact, the least experienced among these players provides the high point on a very good title cut. "Virtue" has a bit of Return to Forever going for it. Goldberg and Gite begin the piece sounding like Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke. The tone shifts drastically toward progressive jazz shortly thereafter. Over Mouzon's well-placed bashing and Gite's throbbing bass, Bartz plays the infectious head and further explores. Goldberg next takes a turn on electric piano. Sideways arpeggios and chord shadings come at you fast and furious. Here, as on other tunes on this album, Goldberg played two roles, following up a solo on one keyboard instrument with another on synthesizer. For this type of music, the synth created more energy. Gite's spotlight turn comes next. He alternates between funk, speed and groove lines. At times he does sound a bit like Stanley Clarke, but tends to play in higher registers. His solo provides the perfect reentry point for the tune's main theme. This is a very impressive and enjoyable progressive jazz performance that dangles from the fusion precipice when Goldberg plays synthesizer. Sometimes categories are that close. That is, if you believe in categories.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky