Alphonse Mouzon – By All Means

20th August 2023 · 1980s, 1981, Funk, Jazz, Music

Being somewhat jazz-hesitant, if not an outright jazzophobe, especially when it comes to the F-word – “fusion” – I obviously haven’t heard of Alphonse Mouzon before.

Listening now to this jazz-funk extravaganza with notes of disco that would probably send staunch jazzophiles running for the nearest smoke-filled cellar in horror, I realise I’ve been missing out.

He’s a pretty legendary figure in the mysterious (to me) world of jazz-funk fusion, having worked with a who’s who of artists from the parallel worlds of soul, jazz, RnB and pop up to his death on Christmas Day 2016.

Over the years he’s played with musicians as diverse as Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Jeff Beck, Betty Davis, Chubby Checker, Tim Hardin, Freda Payne and Roberta Flack, as well as jazz superstars like Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Larry Coryell, Roy Ayers and Donald Byrd.

Alphonse’s heritage is as exotically mixed as his musical influences – a mix of African, French and Blackfoot descent – and he has been cited as a prime influence by any number of musicians, including Robert Plant, who once admitted his influence on Led Zeppelin.

A clever fellow, Alphonse moved to New York from his native South Carolina to study medicine, music and drama at two different universities, while also taking drum lessons from Bobby Thomas and playing percussion in a Broadway show.

He spent a year in Weather Report before signing a solo deal in 1972 with Blue Note, where he made the excellent album Funky Snakefoot, whose title track I was going to post until I heard this.

This 13-minute extravaganza is the title track that closes a fantastic album from 1981 called By All Means, on which Alphonse teams up with Herbie Hancock (piano), Freddie Hubbard (flugelhorn) and Lee Ritenour (guitar), abetted by The Seawind Horns, aka Larry Williams (tenor sax) and Jerry Hey (flugelhorn); Paul Jackson Jr (guitar), Scott Edwards (bass), Kim Hutchcroft (alto sax) and Larry Tim (oboe).

I may have to acknowledge that in my old age I am starting to warm to jazz-fusion after years of avoidance; I may need to seek further education from my esteemed jazz tutor Nick Coleman.