JEWELS AND BINOCULARS/ Lindsey Horner, Michael Moore, Michael Vatcher play music of Bob Dylan.
Ships With Tattooed Sails
New CD from this collective trio focusing on improvisatory instrumental interpretations of the bard.
If You See Her, Say Hello; Senor, I Believe in You, Father of Night, Cold Irons Bound, Spirit on the Water, Jack-a-Roe, One More Cup of Coffee, It's All Over Now, Baby Blue.
And three with guitarist Bill Frisell as a guest:
Blind Willie McTell, Gates of Eden and It's Alright Ma, (I'm Only Bleeding).
Some consider Bob Dylan to be one of the most influential musicians of our era. His materials are traditional-song forms inherited from the blues and the music of the British Isles, and imagery inspired by the greatest writers of our culture. He has, however, found some very personal ways of combining sound and text: indeed, a great poet.
Jewels and Binoculars was born out of Lindsey Horner and Michael Moore’s mutual love of Dylan’s music. Starting in the late 90's, New York bassist Lindsey Horner would get together with reedist Michael Moore and percussionist Michael Vatcher, longtime American residents of Amsterdam, Holland, to explore that repertoire.
Interpreting the songs instrumentally, the trio uses the power of the tried and true folk song forms as the starting point for their improvisational flights, all the while keeping the power of the words and images fresh in mind.
Rather than guitar,voice and harmonica, the instrumentation relies primarily on the clarinet, bass clarinet or alto saxophone for the melody, the acoustic bass for the harmony, and Michael Vatcher’s wide variety of percussion instruments for textural variation.
The latest recording, the third from this collective trio, is entitled Ships With Tattooed Sails on Horner's Upshot Records label. As of May 2007 it is available through www.lindseyhorner.com, downtownmusicgallery.com or cdbaby.com.
The previous two releases, Floater and Jewels and Binoculars were released on Moore's Ramboy Recordings label.
PLEASE NOTE: There have been misperceptions that Jewels and Binoculars is led by Michael Moore or that it is Lindsey Horner’s project. Neither is accurate.
Jewels and Binoculars/Michael Moore, Lindsey Horner, Michael Vatcher play music of Bob Dylan is a collective trio and always has been since its inception in the year 2000. All three members share equally in the responsibilities and artistic direction of the group.
Please keep this fact in mind when writing about the band, this recording or any previous release.
Village Voice, Sept. 4, 2007
Melody Lingers On
by Francis Davis
Before the two styles of music went their separate ways, what kept evergreen melodies common currency in jazz was the faith that their chord changes could be recalibrated down to the smallest micro-interval. Though rock is usually blamed for driving the wedge (along with Broadway and Hollywood's failure to go on providing worthy material), jazz hubris figures into it, too—everyone fancies himself or herself a composer now, an inevitable consequence of the long- standing folly that jazz improvisers, by virtue of their supposedly greater harmonic sophistication, routinely invent melodies superior to the ones they take as their starting point. (Good luck "improving" Gershwin.) Reviewing the Art Ensemble of Chicago years ago, Stanley Crouch thought he detected joyous relief in the audience whenever the bass and drums lapsed into straight time. Nowadays, I notice a similar response— in others and in my own heart—whenever a band so much as alludes to a recognizable melody.
By which I mean anything that fits the criteria of a melody, not necessarily a song you've heard before. This could be one of the reasons we've recently been hearing so many covers drawn from music in which melody hasn't been as subordinated as it's been in jazz, including classic rock. Why it's taken so long for jazz musicians to get around to Bob Dylan has to do with Dylan. Though he mentions jamming with Cecil Taylor in Chronicles, swing has never been Dylan's calling card—if that was all you desired from '60s troubadours, Donovan was your man. But an even greater obstacle to reinterpreting Dylan up to, say, Blonde on Blonde or John Wesley Harding (if I'm being honest about it, the only Dylan that matters for me, allowing an exception for Blood on the Tracks) is that so much depended on his bardic lyrics and hip sneer. And on everything subsequent, including those last three albums greeted with hallelujahs by my pop colleagues, his sometimes gorgeous melodies have been shrouded in mannerism and mystique, fogged in behind that decidedly unmelodious Gabby Hayes croak.
It took Ships with Tattooed Sails—the third album of Dylan covers by Jewels and Binoculars, a leaderless collective featuring bassist Lindsey Horner with Dutch-based American expatriates Michael Vatcher (drums) and Michael Moore (alto saxophone and clarinets)—to persuade me just how gorgeous a driven, plangent, homespun ballad like "I Believe in You" (from 1979's despised, Jew-for-Jesus Slow Train Coming) can be. Paradox acknowledged, Tattooed Sails is an example of song-based free improvisation. In saving Dylan's melodies from Dylan, it might seem to belong in the same rotation with Bryan Ferry's recent Dylanesque. But in light of J&B's streamlined treatment of "Spirit on the Water" (four and a half minutes to Dylan's almost-eight, though no less haunting or honky-tonking), with Moore going at a slower tempo than bass and drums until he overtakes them just in time for what sounds like an off-the-wall quote from "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," the natural segue that suggests itself is from Dylan's Modern Times to Tattooed Sails to Ornette Coleman's Sound Grammar. Thematic improvisation here gives the players somewhere else to go once the melody has been fully honored, an option not open to Ferry or Dylan himself.
Even with added starter Bill Frisell's guitar howling like the ghost of electricity and crying like a fire in the sun on "Gates of Eden" and "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," J&B's approach hardly does justice to '60s Dylan. But Frisell is in his natural element on "Blind Willie McTell," Vatcher everywhere demonstrates the advantages of pulse over meter, Horner moves with grace and authority on arrangements that seem crafted from the bassline up, and Moore displays such wide range that several times (most notably on "One More Cup of Coffee"), I thought he was dropping into the clarinet's chalemeau register, only to realize he was going falsetto on bass clarinet. To play outside the chords you must be honest: The members of Jewels and Binoculars never cheat by superimposing jazz changes and syncopations on tunes that don't start off with any. They just make inspired use of what's there—still as surefire a formula for good jazz as it was for Armstrong and Parker, even if the tunes have become ones they wouldn't recognize.
"Dylan's tunes are quietly and beautifully, almost mystically , transformed. This was beautiful and imaginative playing by clarinetist/saxophonist Michael Moore, drummer Michael Vatcher and bassist Lindsey Horner."- San Jose Mercury News
JEWELS AND BINOCULARS/MICHAEL MOORE, LINDSEY HORNER, MICHAEL VATCHER PLAY MUSIC OF BOB DYLAN
"Jewels and Binoculars is a surprising, effective tribute to the music of Bob Dylan, imbued with a lyrical sensibility but spiked with an array of hard-edged corners...A trio finding power in the interpretation of simple forms with thoroughly unsaccharine sweetness. The openness here never comes the easy way-three consummate stylists serving up sincerity with rough-hewn,hard fought rigor.
Without qualification, this is a classic of a new century."
— Charles Walker, Sudden Thoughts
"Jewels and Binoculars confronts us with a scarcely recognized paradigm-that jazz music has folk roots...As a whole, there is a blend of courage and melancholy in the tunes, which owes largely to the careful sequencing of the record. Bob Dylan should be flattered, as his music here is imaginitively interpreted with gorgeous instrumentation, while treated with obliging respect."
— Alan Jones, One Final Note. UK
"Bob Dylan's focus is on words, messages, and simple melodies that speak to the soul...Stripped of their pop rhythyms and vocals, the songs stand on their own as attractive melodies with hooks and nooks. It doesn't hurt to have the kind of extraordinary talent comprising this trio..The results are never less than fascinating."
— Steven Leowy, Cadence magazine (USA)
"...All melodies well suited for Moore's touching Jimmy Guiffre inspired clarinet. Switching to alto saxophone for "Dear Landlord" and "With God on Our Side", among others, he gives a glimpse of the rude sputtery energy he's brought to Mengelberg's ICP Orchestra and the late Clusone 3, thereby honoring Dylan the surrealist and Dylan the reckless crooner.
Horner takes the simple harmonies as they are, but can row back and forth over a scale and make it sound like a solo, thanks to creative phrasing and precise timing, articulation and intonation.
Vatcher loves the zillion timbres an extended trap set can produce and can be a weirdly hiccupy timekeeper, testing the parameters of a beat, taking perfectly good phrases and stretching them dangerously out of shape. Like Bob Dylan."
— Kevin Whitehead, Chicago Reader
"Jewels and Binoculars stands as a testimonial to the timelessness of Dylan's music, to the versatility of jazz, and to the foresight and the talent of these three musicians who brought them together."
— Brendan Garland, Metro Santa Cruz (California)
"Jewels and Binoculars' style is never anything but gloriously sweet and soothing, the listening experience was all good"
— Stuart Derdeyn,Canada West (Vancouver, B.C.)