. Hailed by Jazz piano legend Hank Jones as “one of the greatest and most under-exposed musicians in the history of Jazz”, New York alto saxophonist Bob Mover assembled an all-star cast featuring the late Dennis Irwin, Kenny Barron and many others for “It Amazes Me …” his elegant, swinging ZOHO debut and first record in over 20 years.
. Bob Mover’s past musical history from being a teenage prodigy member in Charles Mingus’ band in the early 70s, over his stint with Chet Baker in the 1974, with collaborations with Jaki Byard, Kenny Barron, Lee Konitz, Phil Woods, and many others, reads like a “who is who” in classic mid to late 20th century jazz.
• For “It Amazes Me”, a 2006 quartet date augmented on several tracks to quintet, Bob Mover presents a program of 9 smartly chosen, timeless classics from the Great American Songbook, plus one Mover original with “dueling saxophones” with the great Russian tenor saxophonist Igor Butman.
AN HONEST MAN IS HARD TO FIND
It is not new news that bad things can lean to the recognition of good things, but this has a special meaning in the life of Bob Mover, who is the leader and the featured voice and instrumental crooner on this recording. When Bob was a kid, he had a friend with whom he played the guitar and sang the rock and roll of the day by people like Little Richard and the Everly Brothers. They were very close and even resembled each other to the degree that many thought they were actually brothers, when they were actually the best kind of brothers: siblings of the spirit.
Bob played guitar at the time, and they had a lot of fun learning the material from recordings, getting the notes right, rehearsing them and finally performing them. All went well until Bob's friend was killed in an automobile accident that crashed him out of Bob's life. He was gone and there was nothing to say, but there was a whole lot to feel: Bob was bereft of his buddy of the heart and found himself brimming over with grief. A change had come into his life, but it was much bigger than he could recognize at the moment.
The grief was such that Bob stopped playing or listening to the type of music that he and his friend performed, because it suddenly seemed to lack the depth of what he felt. That was actually to be expected of rock, because it was not intended for especially deep feeling; it was for kids and reflected the concerns of adolescents. While he had been attuned to the emotion of adolescents before his friend died, Bob became a man through his grief and looked for some music that expressed an awareness of what he was experiencing--the loss, the heartbreak, the more than melancholy solitude.
Bob started searching through his parents' record collection and discovered an album called Blue Lester by Lester Young. In his sound, his rhythm, the color of the notes Young played, and the capacious feeling that was delivered in a supposedly cool tone, Bob heard what he had been looking for. Soon after, he discovered Billie Holiday and heard that signal level of feeling again. She was some kind of a saint of sentiment, a brown conduit of feeling with elbow-length white gloves on.
Then Bob encountered the invincible lyricism of Frank Sinatra, who could make a listener feel the coldness of the wind, the misty darkness of the night, see the preening light of dawn as well as emotionally witness life lived well with someone else or alone with no more than a memory. Young, Holiday, and Sinatra shared an awareness of human frailty, but they also possessed a buoyant level of morale in their music that could not be ignored. It seemed to say that we can make it through, no matter how hard or devastating experience might be. As he grew into music with more depth, Bob brought all of those elements into his own work and worked to have them evoke those wells of confident feeling in his personality.
When I met Bob Mover many years later, he had already been playing the saxophone since his early teens and had begun his professional life replacing Charles McPherson for seven months with Charles Mingus in 1973. I think I first heard him leading a band on the Bowery and noticed that he could play, could swing and was able to completely inhabit the moment in the way that performers must do in order to convince their listener that there is nothing better to do anywhere in the world than sit there and listen to them play.
Most importantly, Bob's playing and his personality have the spark of integrity, a word we don't hear used to describe many today. The reason is that integrity is thought to be "old school" in a time when people in the arts, especially music, are celebrated for being savvy enough to see how lucrative it would be for them if they merely sold out. This is now thought of as surpassingly clever.
Like many serious musicians, Bob doesn't spend much time attacking or dismissing the decisions of others; he is too busy trying to live up to the ones he has made for himself. Being a good musician and an honest man seem to be at the top of his list. Bob is the kind of man whom you can trust on or off of his horn. You will get all that he has, whenever the occasion arises. He is going to play all that he can in whatever the situation but with the empathy necessary to make good jazz. As a person, happy or sad, he will always be quick, witty, thoughtful and ready to have a big laugh or join in on one.
In many ways, this album reminds me so much of Bob and the sort of man that he is, which is what we should expect from an art as personal and dependent on the sensibility of the individual as jazz is. You start and you end with yourself. Even if you try to imitate someone else, the imitation will be done by none other than you. Bob Mover knows that well, and whatever you hear on this recording is exactly what he had to give at the moment that it was played or it was sung. This kind of individual involvement without the sound of narcissism is something of a miracle. Just a few years ago, Bob and I lived across the street from each other on 11th Street in the West Village of Manhattan. It reminds me of Bob with or without his wife and with his wife and child. He was always himself and he was always there, right in the middle of his relationship to life. This music sounds just like him.
Stanley Crouch, Brooklyn, NY, June 3, 2008