Guitarist John Moulder's multi-faceted and ambitious Earthborn Tales of Soul and Spirit
derives inspiration from a variety of somewhat disparate sources. These include the works of legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, Trappist monk and social activist, Thomas Merton, and philanthropist Ruby Bridges.
The two-part "Ruby's Way" reflects the complementary duality of Moulder's sixth release as a leader. The expansive, almost symphonic first segment opens with trumpeter Marquis Hill and saxophonist Donny McCaslin blowing in unison long, languid lines over the rhythm quartet's densely woven refrains. Hill makes is horn sing with wistful, introspective passion burning through the enveloping silence. Pianist Jim Trompeter lets loose an expressive, arpeggio-filled spontaneous melody that dramatically cascades over the band's reserved vamps.
The equally cinematic second movement is more soulful, with a losely swinging cadence and funky phrases. Moulder improvises with an electrified swagger that harkens back to the early days of fusion. McCaslin takes center stage with his blues-drenched tenor filled with fiery ardor and reverberating honks and wails. Drummer Xavier Breaker solos with breathtaking agility and thunderous beats before the lilting head concludes the piece.
Even in his own playing, Moulder seamlessly blends various elements into a stimulating and unique style. On "Journey to the East, Part 1," percussionist Kalyan Pathak brings a mystical feel with his resonant tabla drums. Moulder's own performance has the melancholy of flamenco, the eastern lyricism of Indian music and hints of the American blues. Pathak , together with Breaker, Trompeter and bassist Eric Hochberg brings an organic and ethereal spirituality to the tune.
As a composer, Moulder delivers a personal best with this exquisite album. He also demonstrates his distinctiveness as an instrumentalist, and his maturity as a bandleader. Earthborn Tales of Soul and Spirit
is a satisfying and enjoyable record that provokes thought and edifies the heart.