May 13, 2014
Almost two and one half years ago, I released Podcast 247, entitled "Talking 'Mobro' with Andy Bragan." That podcast profiled the librettist/playwright who was collaborating with saxophonist/composer John Ellis on an experimental musical production commissioned by and mounted at the Jazz Gallery in New York called “MOBRO.” Loosely based on the real life odyssey of a garbage barge in 1987 that obtained national attention for its inability to find a place to dump its cargo, the production was "about" a lot of things, as press materials pointed out at the time:
The Mobro 4000 was carrying the trash no one wanted; refuse from an overflowing city that sailed the seas for five months and 6,000 miles. Denied port repeatedly, the barge's contents were viewed as hazardous and infectious. This "Flying Dutchman" of garbage barges returned home close to twenty five years ago, but the questions it raises about what we consume, what we waste, and what we reject are still urgent and relevant. The odyssey of our trash may also serve as a metaphorical microcosm for western society, with a particular focus on those that we expel or deny.
For those of us who did not catch the very limited run of this production. Ellis' and Bragen's seventy-five-minute through-composed piece for nine musicians and four singers is now available on CD on Ellis' newly formed label, Parade Light Records (distributed by RED).
Less jazz than modern
art music, MOBRO
assembles as many of the original cast members as possible,
including Becca Stevens, Miles Griffith, Sachal Vasandani, Johnaye
Kendrick, Ellis, Alan Ferber, Josh Roseman, Shane Endsley, John
Clark, Mike Moreno, Ryan Scott, Joe Sanders, Rodney Green and
Roberto Lange. The vocals range from Moreno's death metal growl on
"Sailing" to a free-for-all chorus on "Mutiny/Rebellion", and
always serve to move the story forward. Ryan Scott delivers a
standout turn that recalls his own recorded work on "2nd
Ellis' Sax and Endelsy's trumpet only get a few chances to stand out, but now and again you can hear them step up and take a sol o worth following, or power a group sound like in the beginning of "Military.". Moreno's guitar gets a bit less, save for a winding solo in "2nd Rejection" and leaves us wanting more.
This is the kind of
recording that benefits from having th libretto included in the CD
packaging, allowing the listener the chance to be completely
immersed in the world of MOBRO. Here's hoping that
jazz musicians will continue this kind of collaboration, bringing
exciting new music and projects their fans, stretching the
boundaries of their listening each time.