Mocean Worker: Enter the Mowo!

Jason MacNeil
Mocean Worker

Enter the Mowo!

Label: Hyena
US Release Date: 2004-04-06
UK Release Date: Available as import

Remember a couple of years ago when St. Germain came out, all that head bobbing and humming "I want you to get together …" that you did in record shops? Well, Adam Dorn, also known as Mocean Worker, has picked up on that thread and run with it once again to great success. The son of a producer who worked along the likes of jazz heavyweights like Coltrane and Mingus, Dorn has obviously taken those experiences and immersed them into his own project. And the opening "Chick A Boom Boom Boom" definitely has a great jazz meets techno-tinted sound to it. Whether it's the piano or the drum rolls, the song ambles along with a head-bobbing beat. David "Fathead" Newman is included on the track that might be one reason for its triumph. His solos build on a growing rhythm section before the tune settles back into its deep groove. From here, Mocean Worker moves into a '70s-cum-trip hop format on "Only the Shadow Knows", kind of like if Shaft was chasing down some guy and Portishead were paid to score the film. Sex Mob's Steve Bernstein is included on the funky yet relaxing tune. Unfortunately, this doesn't sound like a complete idea, fading out after roughly two minutes.

Thankfully, he seems to know what works well, especially on the danceable "Right Now" that comes complete with horns, some quality keyboards and a bass line that just won't quit. Part big band, part Herbie Hancock, the tune never falters as the horns pick up as it goes along. It is his collaboration that makes it shines thus far and continues with "Shamma Lamma Ding Dong". Assisted by Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Frank Guathier of Rhinoceros, the flute accents the deep Parliament bass line that keeps it all together. The drum brushing on the track is another plus, working with the flute portions greatly. And just when you think it's run its course, Mocean Worker throws in more horns in the mix, although they tend to be buried too deep. Regardless though, it still gives it new life for several more minutes.

The first huge curve ball thrown into the album is the ambient and softer "I'll Take the Woods", featuring Shivaree's Ambrosia Parsley, a haunting and cinematic ditty that would suit the likes of Kylie Minogue and particularly Catatonia's Cerys Matthews. There is a melancholy in the song that isn't detracted by the short middle segment of electronic effects and windswept vocals as Parsley mentions throwing something off the front porch. It's also the first song where the current sounds overshadow the earlier sounds of earlier times. It saunters back into the original pattern, albeit slowly with the subtle "Salted Fatback" that includes Bill Frisell and Houston Person. Horns abound on the tune while it shifts into different jazz combos arrangements, moving from a smooth '50s flair to an early '70s soul. If there's one drawback to the song, it might be how it glides along without challenging the listener.

Side two begins with a primitive percussion before someone says, "We'll see what you're made of …" "Move" is a Flamenco flavored track that has a piano doing most of the work. Mocean Worker adds quite a lot to the track, including a string section and other ambient effects to create a richer and fuller atmosphere the weaves around the tune. The song brings to mind Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen's reworking of the Mission Impossible theme before it kicks into a harmonica-driven overdrive. Possibly the oddest (or most eclectic depending on your take) is a lounge-like "That's What's Happenin' Tonight". Fusing a myriad of jazz styles and Latin-textured piano, the song has flair to it but takes a bit longer to wrap your head or ears around. Mocean Worker is taking a more deliberate approach to the song, but its flow works relatively without question.

"Blackbird" has the late and legendary Nina Simone. Letting her do most of the work, Mocean Worker takes the opposite approach St. Germain did to its Simone track. Just a very light dab of bass and piano are used on this song. "You ain't got no one to hold you / You ain't got no one to care," she sings as it moves along quietly. "Float" is another soft and somber effort that is helped thanks to Jane Monheit. It might be the softest yet finest performance on the album, which is saying a lot. The MoWo has the mojo working again!

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