The New Cool: Jazz Philosophers Of Moon Hooch

Mar 24, 2017

The band Moon Hooch only exists thanks to their stubbornness. When sax players Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowan were studying at The New School in New York, they didn’t get along. Wenzl says he even dropped a class so he didn’t have to play with Mike. But they had a friend in common, drummer James Muschler, and eventually their proximity (the two young sax men lived across the hall at school) drove them to play together in subway stations to make a few bucks.

It wasn’t easy. In a recent TedTalk, the two “now-best-friends” talked about developing an interest in psychology and meditation, because they recognized that they had something special going musically, despite their personal conflicts.

Long nights discussing philosophy and consciousness eventually formed a tight personal bond that became the glue that keeps Moon Hooch together.

This drive for understanding pushes their music as well. McGowen says, “we’re constantly putting the intention of positive change in our music … I can see the energy of love and collaboration and trust replace the energy of fear, hatred and violence.” Pretty heady stuff, so what does it sound like?

Although their early subway busking was entirely acoustic, today the band sets themselves into an electronic groove, even playing along to a “click track” in performances to keep the framework of their music in a pulsing dance club rhythm.

Wilbur is mostly featured on tenor sax, also some clarinet and flute. McGowan plays tenor and baritone sax, as well as an electronic wind instrument synthesizer that blows like a soprano sax, but sounds like a modern keyboard/drum machine. Muschler’s drums are acoustic, but the microphones for all their instruments are run through a processor so they can alter the output of their acoustic instruments electronically.

Together, the trio’s music edges into funky electronic rhythms with the two saxophones playing off each other, supported tremendously by the non-stop grooving of their drummer.

On this week’s episode of The New Cool, you’ll hear a thrilling number called “Jiggle” from their brand new EP "The Joshua Tree." And if you’re lucky, you might win a pair of tickets to see this Brooklyn Trio in Seattle next Saturday, April 1, they’re performing at Nectar Lounge in Fremont that night, no fooling. Go now – win!