If you google the band “ Full Moon Jazz Collective”, you will not find anything . While the young man and his band mates thought themselves revolutionary, ground breaking, they are now almost completely forgotten. Almost. This was a real ensemble,active from 1979 until about 1981. All names have been changed, except for Craig Berg, may he rest in peace.
The young man’s first band.
It was St. Patrick’s day, and the young man went out to see Count Basie at the famous Big Band club, that now closed. He was amazed at how well the Count worked the audience, even a heckler, and the guitarists very short “ solo”, a series of chords at the end of “Shiny Stockings”.
The young man was with Craig, and met his friend Willy Reed. Reed was, ( as his mother would say “ a little snockered”) – but cheerful. Reed played tenoer saxophone. They talked about the Count, how he was the real deal, “but so many cats were playing that Spiro Gyro shit and calling it Jazz”. Soon, they were talking about ‘Trane, Albert Alyer, Don Cherry, Mingus, Monk, Sun Ra. The young man had just started listening to Sun Ra, and earnestly wanted to be in a band like that. A few months later, they had all formed the semi-seminal band, “ The Full Moon Jazz Collective”.
The young man had just returned to playing piano after a 10 year hiatus. While he could not pretend to be black, he wished that he was, to be a more legitimate. His older friend Coree Thompson,( who WAS black) told him not to worry about all that, but just play the music that you want. !
But, the young man, hardly knew what he was doing. He had heard Count Bazsie, Weather report, Pharoah Sanders on record, caught VSOP live, and had been hanging out at an after hours club, where he could stay up as late as he wanted. The young man did not sit in, as he did not know any standards. Chord changes went by very fast, so he learned how to improvise on vamps of one or two chords. He tried to write them down for other players, but they laughed because although the pitches were correct, the rhythms made no sense. The young man also tended to make note-heads that took up both a line AND a space, so unison melodies sounded more modern than they intended to.
Imagine, a band with Willy Reed on tenor saxophone,( think a big Sonny Rollins sound) trombonist Bill Betel,( who often read Allister Crowley), Craig Berg ( who found an extra neck stuck in the bell of his bari sax he had borrowed from the university) Don Bowles, electric guitarist who also played c melody sax, Mark and Paul McLeish, twins who played bass & drums, and occasionally they were joined by J.K. Ruth, a poet who played a bitchin’ alto flute. Rumour has it that he has made it in the new world music scene, in New York.
The Full Moon Jazz Collective seemed to always get gigs on the nights of Full Moons. People were always acting strange at gigs. The gigs themselves were strange. For instance, the first one was at an art opening in Rochester. Someone in the crowd requested “ Moondance” by Van Morrison. So this band, used to covering “ In a Silent Way” by Miles, and “ A Call for All Demons” by Sun Ra, rose to the challenge and figured out that the song was in a minor, so just blow over the first two obvious chords, and the bridge…. Well just do anything, nobody’s listening any way.
After being paid, the band hung out and drank wine, and drove home in the fog, to play their first BIG GIG, at Powderhorn Park, for the May Day celebration.