What Goes Around Comes Around
Veteran composer, arranger, trumpeter Kerry Moffit has been playing professionally for 41 years, appeared on over 70 recordings as a sideman in many configurations, and is just now issuing his debut as a leader with What Goes Around Comes Around. Moffit leads his sextet, Turning Circles through a set of four originals and four standards, arranging all pieces. The explanation of why it took so long to record as a leader is a simple one. Moffit served as a stalwart member of the United States Air Force Bands for nearly 25 years. These bands are among the best in the country and include concert bands, jazz ensembles, pop/rock bands, and ceremonial bands. After attaining the rank of Master Sergeant, Moffit reached the end of his term and retired from service in 2015. Since leaving the service, Moffit has worked as a freelance musician and teacher and his pre and post service resume boasts performances with artists such as Bobby Shew, Chuck Mangione, Arturo Sandoval, and Clark Terry to name a few.
While Moffit is the main producer, his associate producer is the renowned trumpeter Etienne Charles, Professor of Jazz Trumpet at Michigan State University. The album was recorded in Lansing and yes, there is a ‘full circle” effect here as the Flint native returned to the school where he studied Orchestral Trumpet Performance. He formed his sextet with some of the finest musicians in the Midwest, some of whom we’ve seen in other recordings with a Michigan State pedigree. They are Seth Ebersole (alto and tenor sax), Rob Killips (trombone), Altin Sencalar (trombone), Arlene Pritchard McDaniel (Fender Rhodes, piano, Casio Privia), Luther Allison (Fender Rhodes), Terry Newman (bass), and Ian LeVine (drums). The two trombonists and two keyboardists play on select tracks with Killips and McDaniel respectively appearing on most of the pieces.
Moffit is a straight-ahead player with a flair for sophisticated compositions, beautifully warm tone, and a contemporary edge to phrasing. The set begins with Hank Mobley’s “This I Dig of You” with the frontline moving quickly from ensemble mode into brief crisp statements that yield to McDaniels’ Fender Rhodes excursion and exchanges between drummer LeVine and bassist Newman. Moffit then steps forward, joined by Ebersole and Killips. The swinging melody of Shorty Rogers’ “Just A Few,” follows, featuring a lyrical bass spot from Newman, a bop feel to Moffit’s solo as well as from Killips before the unit shows stellar ensemble work as they go out. Both have a more contemporary sheen due to the electric keyboards.
“Free for All,” a Moffit original, brings a much different feel, moving into a hard bop direction. It’s a blues in non-standard form that Moffit composed while studying with Charlottesville, Virginia-based trumpeter, John D’Earth. Here we have McDaniel on shimmering acoustic piano, impressive drumming from LeVine, a standout trombone solo from Sencalar, as well as the leader’s fiery turns. Speaking about fiery, Moffit then covers Woody Shaw’s “Katrina Ballerina,” one of the late trumpeter’s more melodic compositions and one that has the sextet swinging behind the leader’s own combustible soloing with each member getting their own aggressive turn, marked especially by Ebersole and Newman.
Moffit then offers three consecutive originals beginning with “Life, Love, Loss” which as the title suggests, is a ballad with some solemnly beautiful Moffit flugelhorn overtones with Ebersole on echoing on tenor, backed by a restrained rhythm section. “20-4 Jam” picks up the tempo with Newman’s walking bassline and a strong duo front of Moffit and Sencalar as well as a declarative tenor statement from Ebersole. “M.I.” is another joyous hard bop workout, featuring Allison on Fender Rhodes, that leads to the gorgeous closer, Jimmy Van Heusen’s “But Beautiful,” penned in 1947, showcasing Moffit’s clear, warm tone on flugelhorn backed again unusually by electric rather than acoustic piano.
Moffit’s auspicious debut clearly shows his veteran command of all three elements – composing, arranging, and playing. This is first rate straight-ahead jazz, impeccably rendered and worth many listens.
- Jim Hynes
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