The long-lasting appeal of old-fashioned blues rock, full of blistering riffs from hollow-bodied Gibsons, Hammond B-3s and the mandatory three-piece horn section, the kind of music G. E. Smith used to play on his Telly when he was leading the SNL Orchestra and heck, even the Blues Brothers themselves, has always perplexed me. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t grow up with this music while growing up in Southern California–aside from Steely Dan, perhaps. This was the music for the young people in towns like Chicago and Detroit, where big, joyful and raucous music was the order of the day. The Moore-McColl Jazz Society plays that sort of music, the kind that borrows the ingredients from many different kitchens and serves you up something unique.
The real secret to this nebulous musical genre is more than identifying all those elements–soul, R&B, rock and roll, blues and jazz–and showing how adept you are at playing each one. On their new album, Electric Fantastic, the Moore-McColl Jazz Society adopts that strategy. Singer/keyboard player Beth Moore and singer/guitarist Chance McColl got together last year to record their takes on various jazz and blues genres and assembled not just a band, but a society, to do it. (There’s another fun, old-fashioned note to the proceedings.)
The album starts off with a strong vein of blues rock in the first couple of tracks, and you think oh, this is how it’s going to be. Then the Moore-McColl Jazz Society steps back a little and shows they can pull off straight jazz without a hitch. Then rock and roll, then more blues, then hey–was that almost psychedelic rock on “I Remember Danny Gatton”? There’s a confidence in this society, partially due the strength at its core. McColl’s guitar is lean and mean, just like a hollow-bodied blues guitar should be. Moore’s B-3 work evokes some of the finest jazz organ trio recordings I’ve heard in the last couple of years. Oh, and they both sing! And nicely! You can tell these two spent a life adoring the blues.
I’ve suggested that I’m not necessarily fond of this music, maybe because I’m wary of its celebratory nature, but the Moore-McColl Jazz Society has created the kind of album where you sit down, develop expectations on what you hear in the first few minutes, and then get surprised when each new track begins. By the end of Electric Fantastic I was relaxed, happy and totally into this groove. If you’re fan of blues rock and waiting for something new and exciting to come along, I might want to check this out.