INTERVIEW: Eddie Moore of The Outer Circle [Part 2]

photo by David Shaughnessy

Eddie and I are in what I call the “kiddie corral” at McCoy’s Public House. It’s a section of the restaurant elevated by one step and surrounded by a waist height wall. It’s a flood wall, really. Protecting young single people at high-top tables and bar carousers from the stray bullets that are children in public. It’s empty right now, except for a dude in a stupid hat with a microphone and Eddie Moore. He has been kind enough to sit down with me and Demencha. My arm is getting cramped from holding the mic in the awkward position I have it in. I couldn’t care less. Eddie can talk. He talks almost as well as he plays piano. Which is saying something. Me? I’m more than happy to listen.

James McNamara: Your record has this really live, anything can happen kind of sound, but it seems to maintain this sense of drive. This sense of narrative. So how much of it, would you say, was improvised?

Eddie Moore: We’ve been experimenting with that. Some pieces are strict to form, where we’re playing the piece and there’s a traditional, “you play the melody and then the head and then you move on to the solo section.” We can do whatever and improvise there. Then we can come back to what is the form and the melody. It’s kind of like an exercise for us. We’ll all take turns playing, just to get comfortable and saying hello. Having the conversation. So, some pieces are like that. We’ll go into the study and just to get loose and just to say hello to each other. And to get in the right mind set. We might just play, I might make up a groove and everyone just goes with it. I don’t speak the key. I don’t speak the time. Whatever happens happens and we roll with it. Some of the pieces are actually devised. I think we only did one or two (on the E.P.) that are free. Most of them are pretty standard as far as jazz tradition goes. As far as form.

JPM: A conversation?

EM: Yeah. A conversation. Jazz is a language and so, if we’re improvising, we can keep a form on conversation going. I almost think about like, these pieces are a canvas of conversation. And all of us bring our pieces of conversation to the table. We accompany each and chime in. We answer each other and just keep that going. We’re not really thinking about; “what notes am I playing”, or really “making the changes”, or “is this right”. If it feels good and people are speaking to each other and the communication is right, it will sound good. In my eyes, anyway.

JPM: Actually, that completely answers what I was going to ask you next. Which was, “what are you trying to accomplish in a song?” If you would like to elaborate on that more, you’re welcome to?

EM: Yeah. A lot of the songs, there either situations that I’ve been through, or….Yeah, pretty much just situations. Like “Houston Visions” is a piece about is being in Houston and my commute, from the Woodlands, which was an hour away from the city, and sitting on the freeway not moving. But you’re in downtown, so you’re just sitting there looking at the sky line, because you’re not going anywhere on the freeway. It’s slow moving and Houston has this feeling of chopped and screwed. Where everything is slow and groovish and soulful. I just wanted to have that conversation over that piece. Other pieces like “Anger Management” are just like…I was angry in my undergrad experience, because of certain things that weren’t happening that, I felt, should have been. For them, “Okay, What makes you angry?” Then we had that conversation. Express that emotion.

The Outer Circle in Studio JPM: So a lot of your recording come from an emotional base rather than more technical writing?

EM: Definitely. Some of it’s technical, but I’m definitely more on the emotional side. I’m really kind of writing what I feel. Or I’ll think about, “I have this emotion” and “this is really what’s on my mind”. How can I express this through my art form? Or color it this way? I’ll try to go there. It’s kind of like a therapy. You can get together with your friends and they can have that conversation with you. Not orally, but musically. So, if we’re angry at someone, we play “Anger Management” and we’re like, “Okay, know I’m angry at that too. That’s said and done.” We just play the music and don’t really have to talk about it.

JPM: Your EP, The Freedom of Expression. Was there an overall point you were trying to get across with it? Or was this a, “I want to put something out there that is my own”, type of thing?

EM: I definitely thought, that at the time of where jazz is and where I am in my life, it was time to contribute to the music. To the lineage of the music. Being a young jazz musician, especially coming from Houston. Or anywhere in the United States. I think it’s time for us, to kind of have our voice and take the reigns of our music. There’s a lot of young guys in this. So, I felt this was kind of taking responsibility for that. I named it The Freedom of Expression because I was reading a lot, and I guess that there’s this argument or view point that’s going on. And just reading Duke Ellington, I’m reading his biography. He was saying what he felt about jazz and it kind of touched me in a certain way. I had never come across that information. He said that, “We prefer to call jazz: the music of the American idiom or the music of the freedom of expression.” It’s a blending of cultures. It’s not so much jazz as a genre, but music. And to me, when I read that, it just hit me. I learned jazz in college and it came to me in this super formulated way. “You do this and you do this and then this and this and this.” That didn’t necessarily make sense to me when I would hear guy’s play. But, for some reason that way they were playing was touching me. The real freedom of expression. When I read that quote, it really hit me. And this music is a freedom of expression. The jazz is the the art of improvisation to me, not so much the genre. But we can take our language and our art of improvisation and put it over Hip-Hop; Rock, Funk, Electronic, Jam Band. So just coming from there. That’s why a lot of the songs are so different. I think it’s just having that conversation. The freedom of our language.

JPM: You’ve already talked about meeting your backing band around town. When did you sit down and say, “let’s be a band”?

EM: That sort of naturally happened. When I first moved here, the first person I met in Kansas City period, was Dominique. Dominique Sanders. A bass player that plays around the city. In several different types of bands. He plays electric and upright. I met him first and we exchanged numbers. I was hungry to meet guys because, I just felt alone in a way. The first day we met in audition, we talked a little bit, and was like, ”alright”. Then he dropped me off at the Blue Room. That’s when I met everyone and kind of saw everyone. After awhile, I just started playing with these guys. I really liked the conversation I was having with Dominique when we were at jam sessions or just goofing off playing at school. We were in combo. Then, Matt Liefer, we met at the jam session and we ended up being in a combo at school. So we had a whole semester to play with each other and feel each other out. I was like, “Man, I’ve got to play with these guys.” With Matt Hopper, we had been playing at a couple of jam sessions within the last couple of years. We always liked the conversation that we’d have and the way that we would accompany for each other in the melodies we were playing. I wanted to move to a guitar set up. Bass, drums and guitar. So, I thought of Hopper. We have this great conversation. So I wondered what that would be like over our original pieces. So that kind of formulated the band. I was rolling with a couple of tenor players, at first. So, on the album, you hear Andy McGee. We still play together. We hosted with each other at The Foundation two weeks ago and played a lot of his music. My ex-roomate, Eric Blume, he was there. We just get together and play over different pieces and different styles. Just by randomly playing at jam sessions. That’s the great thing about Kansas City. There’s a jam session every day of the week. You can meet all these different guys and have all these different conversations of these different forms. Once you meet some guys that you like, I just thought, “Let’s make some music.” I guess that’s how it worked out.

JPM: I’ve got to ask what does the name, The Outer Circle refer to?

EM: The Outer Circle is really referring to the outer circle of the rhythm section around the soloist. Or the the outer circle of communication in general. Most the time when we set up, or a traditional jazz band will set up. You have the piano; the bass in the crook of the piano, then the drums on the other side, and the soloist is in the middle. If you envision an outer circle connecting all these members physically and emotionally. So I just thought… Me and Eric were just like sitting around just talking about that. Eric was like, “It’s kind of like an outer circle”. And thought, “Oh man, That’s great. That’s perfect!” We were looking for a name. That’s the view point of how I see jazz musicians play in general. It just kind of stuck.

The Outer Circle Live JPM: I did notice watching some of your live shows that you aren’t usually out in front. You guys are just sort of collected together. Sort of an even stance, really.

EM: Right. We put my name first, I guess, but I think about it like that. We’re all kind of equal pieces. Right now I’ve written all the music, but we’re all writing. There’s some new stuff that other band members are contributing. It’s a group mentality and conversation. I can’t speak to myself.

JPM: What are some of your favorite rooms to play in Kansas City?

EM: I definitely like The Mutual Musicians Foundation. I like The Blue Room, but I also like the Majestic, as well. They’re all different. I say I like The Mutual Musicians Foundation because your there at one o’clock in the morning, even though sometimes it gets so rowdy you can’t hear what you’re doing, the energy in the room and the history in the room. You feel this willingness to just go and totally be free. I also like the Blue Room. It was one of my first experiences in jam session. I came at a time when the jam session was really poppin’. All the young guys were there. It kind of captured me. I had never been to a place like. Or that big. I like The Majestic because it has that classic type of feel. They’re really listening. It feels like the people are really listening at The Majestic. I feel the same type of freedom, but in a different way. That’s the great thing about being here. There’s several different rooms that are all great. They all have really good instruments and the people are really attentive. They are listening. They know their language and they know their history. They’re with you on the journey.

JPM: Are there any that you haven’t had too much of a chance to play at, that you would like to play more?

EM: We played at The Green Lady and I really like that room. I would enjoy playing there a little more. I really want to play The Record Bar more. I’ve played there a couple of times. They have amazing sound. It just seems like that’s where the party’s at. I’ve been there a couple of times and seen Reggie B. I had a great time and I was in the audience. So, I know they had a great time on stage.

JPM: The record comes out in February and that’s a good way to kick of the new year. Is there any other plans for 2013?

EM: Just doing a lot with Miles Bonny. Even when he moves. We’re (The Outer Circle) planning a trip to Houston. I didn’t get to bring the whole band last year when we went. Playing a lot of music and writing a lot of stuff. (Laughs) I’m just trying to be everywhere.

JPM: Alright, one final question. What have you been listening to, lately?

EM: I have been listening to a lot of classics, lately. Which for me, is like something completely new in the last year, or so. A lot of Earl Gardner because of the way he’s playing the instrument. His album
Concert By The Seas. Listen to a lot of Art Tatum. His Solo Masterpieces. I listen to a lot of modern guys. I listen to Jason Moran’s album 10. I like that one. And then Gerald Clayton. I’m a piano trio kind of guy. Between the classics of Art Tatum and Earl Gardner and new stuff like Jason Moran. I’ve been listening to Aaron Parks. I mean, I listen to Glasper all the time, as well. A little bit of McCoys in there. I’ve been jamming Miles (Bonny) like everyday. His new album, The S3. It’s ridiculous. So, he gets in my car and it’s been in there for like, three months. He looks at me like (laughing), “You’re still listening to it?” So, a lot of different Hip-Hop and jazz from all periods. Just trying to soak myself in all these different styles of music. Because it’s all great.

JPM: Eddie, thanks for sitting with me and Demencha Magazine. I’m really excited for the record.

EM: Thank you.

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James P
James P
"just wanted to piss off mom, and show my friends I'm a cool alt"

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