NW Jazz profile interview with Robert Moore

Robert Moore is a trumpet player, vocalist, composer, and bandleader who recently relocated to Portland from Birmingham, Alabama. Every time I see him play I am impressed by his uncanny ability to connect with the audience and put them in the palm of his hand. His vocal style is somewhere between
King Pleasure, Mark Murphy and Ray Charles and his trumpet playing is lyrical and reflective like Chet Baker's. He always seems to know just when to break out his blues harp in order to make the room go nuts. Here is what he had to say about performing when I interviewed him at my studio recently:

DCV: How is the music scene here in the NW compared to the South?

Room: I miss some of the things about the South, there’s rawness in the
players there. They’re less concerned with playing correctly and more
concerned with the feel and energy of the music.

DCV: Do the audiences in the south have a different orientation towards hearing live music?

RoMo: I don’t think the audiences are different here. The players are more concerned with technique here than in the South. Southern players are more focused on the emotion and energy that they’re putting out. I feel more comfortable just letting things flow when I’m playing in the South. Here I sometimes find that I’m more self-critical when I play. A real player can connect with their source and express their emotions, AND be technically correct. This doesn’t happen often enough for me (laughs). My orientation as a front man is geared much more towards the house than a lot of other musicians. There seems to be a huge tendency in this business for self-indulgence. A lot of players go deep into self-explorations that they themselves may find fascinating- It doesn’t matter to them that their music is totally inaccessible to the audience. God bless so many audiences for enduring these endless solos that they can’t really understand or even appreciate.

DCV: Some people would say that you’re talking about ‘playing down’ to the audience. Others might also call this ‘showboating’ or ‘crowd pleasing’.

RoMo: I think you can play with taste, integrity, and unique interpretation and still be accessible and generally appreciable. That’s still valid. I lean toward simplicity but I don’t see that as ‘playing down’. It’s just speaking in an understandable, interpretable form. Things become more potent when they’re reduced. It’s like being given a blank canvas and being told
that you can only use two colors. The requirements artistically for that are challenging but are often rewarding.

DCV: Do you think someone like Bird operated with this same type of orientation?

RM: I think he probably did. Just look at the number of twelve bar blues he recorded. He started with recognizable phrases and developed them into complex melodies. You don’t need directionless chord changes to be interesting. (smiles)

DCV: How about late Trane then?

RoMo: Trane was seeking and reaching, but that’s a perfect example of a music that alienated a lot of people from Jazz. Don’t get me wrong, I love late Trane, but to most people it’s just honking and squeaking that they can’t understand. One of the reasons I was attracted to vocals was that it allows accessibility for the audience. You’re telling a story or acting out a part, this gives a grounding point for the listener. Combine that with a melody that’s compelling and…........(raises eyebrows with sly look)

You can catch Robert perform on January 13th at the Blue Monk from 9pm-midnight. (3341 se Belmont, Portland, Oregon 97214, ph: 503.595.0575)

I’m directing a new Jazz TV series called Portland Jazz Jams TV. PJJ-TV features performances and interviews with some of the Northwest’s premier musicians and Jazz personalities. For PDX area show times or to watch the programs in high-speed streaming format go to: www.portlandjazzjams.com

Now get out there and support live Jazz!

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