Ralph Moore

Three Score

Three Score marks the return of tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore to the recording studio as a bandleader for the first time in years. During that hiatus, Moore performed as a member of The Tonight Show band for 15 years and gigged around the United States, Europe and Asia.

Evocative of the “blowing sessions” of the 1950s and ’60s, Moore’s quartet here provides lively straightahead backing. The four originals from the bandleader and three from pianist Eric Reed are fitting vehicles for individual and group features. The album’s title track, one of the session’s standouts, begins with a Gerald Cannon bass solo, the waltz allowing Moore’s quartet to engage in dynamic rhythmic interplay. During his solo, the bandleader intersperses compelling melodic development with longer bop-based lines, while drummer Willie Jones III generates a swirling “3” feel.

Featuring a greater amount of rhythmic diversity, the second half of the album finds the quartet demonstrating a wider swath of its abilities. “Una Mujer Muy Elegante” demonstrates a more subdued approach than previous tracks, opening with a piano intro by Reed, and Moore entering with the bright and joyous bossa nova melody. The bandleader’s “Blues Alliance” explores other feels, in addition to providing a more open harmonic environment, reminiscent of 1960s post-bop blues performances. All four band members solo, each with a contrasting atmosphere: Moore over a straight-eighth Latin-inflected groove, Reed over a driving swing, Cannon with sparse comping, and finally Jones trading with Moore and Reed.

Though some of the performances on Three Score feel a bit restrained, opening up the conversation showcases the ensemble at its best.