Long after they die the majority of jazzmen are still remembered. Mention
the names of Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Sidney Bechet, Duke Ellington,
Lester Young, Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton to the man in the street and
he will more than likely reply "Jazzmen weren't they?" But ask
the average jazz lover, "Who was Brew Moore?" and you'll probably
receive a blank stare.
One can hardly blame them, because Moore was unknown to the majority of
jazz buffs, due to the fact that very little of his work has been re-issued.
If one were prepared to travel the length and breadth of the country it
might be possible to track down a few of his recordings, but one would
certainly have to search exclusively at the jazz specialist record shops.
Brew Moore was probably more heavily influenced by Lester Young than any
other tenor saxophonist. Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Herbie Steward,
Bill Perkins and many others may have begun their careers by emulating
Lester Young, but went on to develop their own styles later on. This does
not mean that Brew intentionally copied Young but just felt comfortable
and at ease with that particular sound.
Moore never became a member of Woody Herman's 'Four Brothers' sax section,
as did Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Herbie Steward, Al Cohn and baritone saxophonist
Serge Chaloff. One can only assume that there was never a vacancy at the
appropriate moment, or perhaps he didn't want the job, feeling insecure
or trapped when touring with a big band for any length of time. Big Bands
were not Moore's forte although he was with the Claude Thornhill band
for approximately six months and also recorded with Machitos Afro-Cubists.
He felt happier in small band surroundings or leading his own quartet.
Perhaps one should begin with the conception of the boy from the small
southern town of Indianola, Mississippi, where Milton Aubrey Moore was
born on March 26th 1924. When he was seven years old his mother gave him
a harmonica for his birthday. He soon taught himself to play the popular
tunes of the day and by the time he was eleven he was a member of the
local junior high school band.
At the age of eighteen he spent a very short time at Mississippi University,
leaving after only a few months. He now possessed a secondhand tenor saxophone,
arrived in New Orleans with only three dollars, and quickly found his
first professional engagement with Fred Ford's Dixielanders.
Moving from the south to New York in 1943, Moore formed his own quartet
which was to be his favourite format during the coming years. As already
mentioned, Brew played briefly with the big band of Claude Thornhill,
who, like Woody Herman, was delving into the be-bop cult during the mid-forties.
Brew Moore was a regular participant at the Roost and Bop City where he
played with trombonist Kai Winding's sextet, which spotlighted Gerry Mulligan
on baritone sax, and cut several recordings: Crossing the Channel, Sleepy
Bop, Broadway and Waterworks. The first two numbers were issued on American
Roost, the last one on the New Jazz label. Moore also recorded with a
sextet led by the trumpet player, Howard McGee, that also featured J.J.
Johnson on trombone. Apart from the standard I'll Remember April the numbers
recorded were mostly originals. Fuguetta, Fluid Drive Donellon Square,
Meciendo, and Lo Flame were all originally recorded on the Blue Note label.
Moore did eventually record with the Four Brothers team, Getz, Sims and
Al Cohn, plus another 'Lester' man, Allen Eager. The title of the album
was Battleground. It gives one an insight as to how these tenor saxophone
players related to each other musically. They were entirely compatible.
Whenever Charlie Parker came to town, Brew Moore was always happy when
invited to sit in on his jam sessions. Everything seemed to be happening
around the clubs in Greenwich Village, New York, in the 50's. Moore's
was always a familiar face, when playing with the jazz greats or featuring
himself with a quartet.
When the modem jazz scene faded for a while during the mid-fifties in
New York, Brew managed to get a lift in an old Buick with country and
western men, Billy Faier, Jack Elliott and Woody Guthrie. They stopped
off in Texas to buy some hamburgers and alcohol. After the meal, Faier
suggested that Brew should play something with them. Moore did not care
for country music. He remarked, "I don't play in your style, it wouldn't
mix." Billy said, "We'll play some blues." After he heard
Moore's version of the blues Guthrie refused to have anything else to
do with him, so Moore left to catch the bus to San Francisco.
The atmosphere of San Francisco appealed to him, both musically and socially.
He made many appearances at the famous Black Hawk, a favourite nightspot
with the jazz people. On some occasions, Moore played with a Dixieland
band led by Bob Meilke's Bearcats, which of course wasn't his milieu,
but as he pointed out to a journalist, "I go where the work is."
In 1959, through overwork and alcoholism, Moore became seriously ill,
but quickly recovered and resumed work to play on a Matson steamer heading
for the Far East. Shortly after he toured this exotic part of the world.
It was now drawing close to 1961 and numerous top jazz musicians were
leaving the States for Scandinavia and Europe. Sidney Bechet, Colman Hawkins,
Benny Carter, Bud Powell, Kenny Clark, Oscar Pettiford, Teddy Wilson,
Stan Getz, all found the Europeans very receptive to jazz generally.
Moore found no difficulty in obtaining work in Sweden and Denmark and
alternated between the two countries. He surrounded himself with the best
musicians in Scandinavia and with the many Americans who had taken up
He recorded a fine session in Denmark in 1962, with a line-up that consisted
of himself on tenor, Sahib Shibab alto saxophone, Lars Gullin baritone
sax, Louis Hjuland, vibes, Ben Axen piano, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen
bass and William Schiopffe, drums.
After a few years Moore took the opportunity to go further south, to the
Canaries, where it was certainly much warmer and less expensive than living
in Scandinavia. He returned in 1970 to Sweden and formed a fine quartet,
consisting of himself on tenor sax, Lam Sjostens, piano, Sture Norden
bass and Frank Noren drums.
The album was released on Sonet records, catalogue number SNJF624. It
features a wide selection of material. The up-tempo of Lars Sjosten's
"Kong" (yes, not 'King') Fredrik's Blues is a medium to fast
tempo number, the same applies to Bait, composed by the late Tony Fruscella.
On the album is Stockholm Dews, the last number to be heard and composed
Moore was once again invited back to Denmark and after a successful gig
in Copenhagen on March 19th 1973, fell down a flight of stairs. He died
in the ambulance on the way to hospital. He was just one week short of
his forty-ninth birthday.