I’m sitting in McCoy’s Public House in the heart of Westport. It’s Sunday, nearing mid-afternoon, and the NFL games of the day are playing silently to the lingering brunchers. I’m waiting on Eddie Moore. Jazz pianist and band leader to The Outer Circle, a quartet releasing their first EP this coming February. It’s called “The Freedom of Expression”. Here’s a link to “Passing By”.
When Eddie walks in he looks around intently. I fully realized the immediate awkwardness of the situation. I have been researching him and his music for the better part of a week. I know what he looks like, where he gigs, who he plays with. He knows exactly two things about me. I’m writing for Demencha and I can hit send on an e-mail. He dresses differently than I thought he would. He’s in a charcoal cardigan with horizontal red stripes and a graphic tee. His dreads pulled back neatly. He looks like a well kempt skater kid. Which, he tells me after the interview that he was.
James McNamara: You were a Houston based musician before you moved to Kansas City to study music at UMKC. What are differences between them? What are the experiences you had?
Eddie Moore: It’s a lot different. That’s kinda why I moved. Houston is really gospel and r&b based. Jazz is there, but not so much a swing and it’s at a younger level. Like when you go to the HSPVA were a lot of the kids will study jazz. So, I just felt I needed to move and being in Kansas City there’s so much music, every day of the week, especially jazz. You can go hear live jazz Monday through Sunday; small group, piano trio, big band at Harlings on Tuesday. It’s great. It’s very different.
JPM: You were in a Group called The Neon Collars in Houston.
EM: I was. For a little bit. Right. Maybe right at my senior year in undergrad.
JPM: I did a little research on it and it seems like such an amazing transition. They were this sort of power rock type of band.
EM: (laughs) Right
JPM: And you do this forward-looking jazz. The question I asked myself, when looking at your music and looking at your background was, “Is jazz always what you had your sights on artistically or is this just an extension of your overall musical interest?”
EM: Jazz is where everything is based for me. I kind of made the decision right after high school. I was playing a lot of classical and playing in the marching band. I wanted to take the piano more seriously. I was into The Roots and Mos Def and Hip-Hop artists like that. Playing classical all my life and thought, “I can’t play the harmony I’m hearing in these beats or these tracks.” And I thought that was cool. I went to school thinking, “I want to be a producer.” Growing up on jazz I realized that I had to learn jazz harmony and had to learn this form first. It’s always been underneath. In The Neon Collars I would play synth stuff and it was just to push the boundaries and that music was different and fun. But, yeah. Jazz has been, definitely, underneath everything. Just kind of forming the jazz language and knowledge and putting it in different areas that I want play in.
JPM: Saying that, what specifically inspired you to pursue jazz as a musical career. Was it a particular recording that made you say, “I need to do this?”
EM: It was a couple of things, I guess. When it comes to the recording side: I guess it was when I went to undergrad it was seeing kids my age play with that much freedom. Even though they were gospel-based. Just to sit in a room and play with each other, to have fun and improvise. That was part of it. I’d never seen that and, at the time, I was eighteen or nineteen. So, that just took over my soul. And from communicating with them they were passing me records. So, I got hip to Brad Mehldau and Robert Glasper. Glasper is coming from such a Hip-Hop side of things. Growing up in Houston, I just felt such a connection to that music. It was like, “Oh, wow! He’s doing this and he’s from here. He’s walked these streets and we run around the same type of people.” It just became more for me and something to pursue.
There is a server running a sweeper over the carpet next to us. She sheepishly apologizes noticing the recorder I have trained on Eddie. We both shrug and smile. He finally takes a drink of the beer that has been sitting in front of him for a few minutes now. His face seems to light up.
JPM: What is that? The rye beer?
EM: (he chuckles) Yeah, that’s pretty good!
JPM: It’s pretty delicious, right?
The dude digs beer. Who doesn’t?
JPM: So, you were saying it was more of a local thing. It was people around you that inspired you to do jazz. Rather than more famous artists it was a more cultural, communal experience?
EM: It was. It was. I’d grown up listening to different types of music, just not understanding it. I’d always grown up with Miles Davis and John Coltrane from my Dad. He’d listen to Frank Zappa and these different types of music. I guess, it was locally. I look up to a lot of those Houston musicians. There’s a lot of them that go straight from Houston to New York and they’re doing some great things. I got hip to it later in life. I was playing piano and was like, “Why not play this instrument like THIS!” I did everything I could to learn that language and learn that history.
JPM: That’s pretty awesome. So there’s an emotional root for you in it.
EM: Oh, definitely. I went to Texas Southern. So, we’re talking about being in the area of Kirk Whaylum. Count Basie picked the last members of his band from that school. Joe Sample is from there. I was following a lineage of pianists.
JPM: I guess we’ll get into some of your recordings. One of the things I’ve noticed in your recordings and live performances is a high level of contrast instrumentally. It seems that Matt Leifer’s drums have this almost hectic “housey” vibe and your piano has this gentle, dancing touch to it. I was wondering if that was a natural progression of your style or was it conscious decision?
EM: I had always been wanting to put a band (together), ever since I was in Houston. Moving to Kansas I felt a great certain satisfaction meeting the great musicians that are here. So, I had just been playing around the city with these guys; Dominique, Matt Liefer and Matt Hopper. They just brought that personality. It was something that just sort of naturally developed.
JPM: So, everyone’s individual styles just sort of worked out that way?
EM: Right. Everyone has their own personality. I don’t ever tell them exactly what to play. I just maybe say, “Oh, I like this” or “I have this”. And I come to the table with this piece or maybe a feel in mind. Me and Matt will sit and he’ll just play something and I’ll be like, “Oh yeah, I like that. Let’s play that”. So every night it can change. Just because we might want to do something different. So, yeah it just naturally happens.
JPM: Your record is due out in February. Do you have an exact date, yet?
EM: We are having our album release party on February 1st. So it will be out by then.
JPM: Do you have a space for it?
EM: It will be at the American Jazz Museum. The Blue Room. It will feature Miles Bonny and Eric Blume and some other guys from around the city. Like, Andy and Ryan Lee will sit in on a few tunes. Just bring a lot of genres together and play music in general.
To be continued next week on Demencha.com…