You likely know jazz guitarist and composer Alex Moxon from The Nebula Organ Trio, F8-bit, HML Trio, Hilotrons, The Chocolate Hot Pockets, Contra Midi, or The Four Heavies.
He’s recorded five albums as a principal or collaborative composer, and has had regular gigs at Options Jazz Lounge (HML Trio), The House of TARG (F8-bit), and Queen Street Fare. You’ll be hearing more of him, as he’s released The Alex Moxon Quartet, his debut album as leader. It features a stellar group of musicians playing Alex’s compositions as well as songs by Woody Shaw and Chris Cornell.
So what’s Alex been listening to while in isolation?
Before I tell you about what I’ve been listening to, let me tell you about my new album. I’m very excited and proud of it. It features mostly my compositions. The band is killer – Steve Boudreau on piano, John Geggie on bass, and Michel Delage on drums. We recorded it with Normand Glaude at Morning Anthem Studios. Philip Shaw Bova mastered it at Bova Lab Studio. I was going to wait to make it available online until after my record release in May, but things have become a little “weird(?).” So, it’s on Bandcamp now.
Can I say a bit about Bandcamp? Just as a PSA. After buying records directly from the creators (risky these days), Bandcamp is the best way to support artists. We get the best cut of the profits from it by a very wide margin. Spotify is a well-designed and easy to use platform, but the profits mainly (i.e. almost entirely) go to tech people in California. Tidal is more artist-friendly, but Bandcamp is still the best.
Like most every other full-time musician on earth, one morning in March I opened up my email to find out that all of my shows in 2020 were cancelled. Oh well, it’s just money! (All the money). So, since this disease-y craziness began I’ve mainly been grappling with technology. I’ve repurposed my studio for recording, been teaching guitar via the Zoom app, getting deeper into my MIDI controller, and learning some new music/video software. Slowly, that is, as I’m also wrangling my 1-year old. He’s a sweet guy, and a handful. Did you know that babies don’t like Mad Men?
I don’t see how art presented in that way could possibly be impactful. Plus, I like to play with people.
I don’t know how I feel about the whole streaming phenomenon. Feels like busking, and the way that people take it in, it’s like you’re just another blip in an endless stream of content (most of which you ignore, because everybody and their cat is doing a livestream of themselves playing “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”). I don’t see how art presented in that way could possibly be impactful. Plus, I like to play with people. When I’m ready, I may release some 4k videos of old concerts, or put up a Patreon where people can hear what I’ve been cooking up.
I’ve been listening to the music of Canadian guitarist Justin Haynes, who passed away tragically in March of 2019 and left behind a staggering body of work. If you’re not familiar with the music of Justin Haynes, a good place to start is “Lasting Beauty” from the album Not Drowning… Waving. All the revenue from that record and the ones at justinhaynesearlyworks.bandcamp.com go to Justin’s young son.
When not listening to Justin, I’ve been checking out:
Woody Shaw – Stepping Stones: Live at the Village Vanguard
Woody Shaw has been a huge influence on me musically. He really created a language over the course of his career. He had a way of playing the nastiest most out-there sh*t and making it sound like butter.
This album has been a favourite since I picked up the vinyl at The Record Centre in 2018. I actually recorded a version of “In a Capricornian Way” on my album. My kid is a Capricorn, born just after we recorded, so it felt fitting.
Standout moments are the ferocious trading on “Stepping Stones” and the gentle-not-so-gentle chiller “It All Comes Back to You.”
Ben Gunning – Nature
I was obsessed with Ben’s 2015 record Massive Love, and I feel the same way about his 2019 release Nature.
There really isn’t anything else like it. Sometimes I like music because of one element or another (the band could be hot, but the lyrics might be weak, or vice versa), but it’s rare that something is uniformly great. With Ben’s music, I don’t feel I have to compromise as a listener, because it’s all killing.
If I had to describe it or walk the plank, I’d call it “transgressive pop music.” The standout tracks here are the closer “Keeper,” dripping with vibe and fat synth bass lines, and the oddly prescient “Who Will Pull the Mask Off.”
About Justin Haynes
Following his death, Rebecca Campbell, a Toronto-based musician who lived and worked with Justin from 1997 to 2002, wrote in NOW:
“He was a good soul who struggled to make the best of a tumultuous life. He was a devoted father, a brilliant artist, and a rigorous teacher and mentor. A sonic master, he played guitar and piano with a deft hand and a keen ear. He composed beautiful, mercurial music, some of it complex and dissonant, much of it sweet and delicate – all of it artful, inquisitive, and endlessly inventive. He was a significant contributor to the big community of creative musicians in Toronto, a prolific, boundary-pushing improvisor, and an enthusiastic collaborator and composer.”
Justin Haynes – Early Works on Bandcamp
Rebecca Campbell and Justin Haynes – The Sweetest Noise on Bandcamp
About Woody Shaw – Stepping Stones: Live at the Village Vanguard
Recorded over two evenings in August 1978 at New York City’s Village Vanguard, Stepping Stones was well received. Of the album and trumpeter Shaw, Allmusic states: “few have come close to approaching his artistry and cerebral architecture, and none have gone past it. The music here is soulful, cerebral, harmonically complex jazz that is the epitome of post-bop.” All About Jazz wrote “there’s the instant ring of truth. Here is a group of players who don’t just play notes, they mean them.”
About Ben Gunning – Nature
Ben Gunning has been a part of the Canadian music scene since his days as the front man and founding member of Montreal’s Local Rabbits, a ’90s alternative cult band. He’s toured with Sloan, The Inbreds, and the Rheostatics, and has collaborated with Neko Case, Mantler and Thrush Hermit.
His debut album was Beigy Blur, a Zunior Label release, which was described as “a modern musical masterpiece.” This was followed by Mal de Mer and Massive Love. Toronto’s NOW wrote that the songs on Nature “occupy a smoothed free space somewhere between sophistipop and IDM, textures washing over you like soapy rainbows.”