Todd Mosby, Land of Enchantment Review
An innovative blend of Eastern and Western musical traditions
by Sylvannia Garutch
Todd Mosby’s latest album, Land of Enchantment, is a veritable painting in sound, encapsulating the vast landscapes and rich cultural diversity of New Mexico. With his mastery over Western composition, jazz improvisation, and Indian raga music, Mosby crafts a mesmerizing journey that resonates with his personal experiences, musical heritage, and spiritual connection.
Born out of the multi-cultural environment of St. Louis, Mosby has carved a unique niche within the musical world, synthesizing Western jazz and Indian classical with a medley of global influences. Studying at prestigious institutions like Berklee College of Music and with Indian maestro Ustadt Imrat Khan, Mosby’s rigorous discipline has given him a singularly broad musical vocabulary.
Mosby’s invention of the Imrat guitar, an 18-stringed sitar-guitar hybrid, symbolizes his desire to bridge disparate musical worlds. Its microtonal capabilities not only offer a broader palette for Mosby to draw from but also forge a connection between Eastern and Western music traditions. This innovative creation echoes the cultural dialog Mosby has long embraced, and it resonates with his philosophy of continual growth and discovery.
“Place In The Sun” – An ebullient track blending a Motown groove with ’70s jazz-fusion. The Motown groove in the bassline establishes a deep groove in its activity and rhythmic syncopation. The song has many textures, from dreamy Sérgio Mendes-styled female vocals that add subtle texture to a light scatting section. Mosby’s guitar lines are dexterous yet lyrical, merging various cultural influences into a joyous musical tapestry. Overall, this is a strong opening selection that presents many reasons to travel further into Mosby’s “Land of Enchantment.”
“Moonrise Samba” – This composition showcases Mosby’s melodic ingenuity and complex chord progressions. Mosby’s rhythmic choices are cleverly tied to his strong sense of melodic development that he colors with a rich array of fusion of harmonic colors. The Latin rhythmic structure of the main theme is augmented by the samba-flavored bridge, adding an enticing rhythmical flair and expressing a rich palette of musical ideas. The dreamy Sérgio Mendes-styled female vocals provide a rhythmic backdrop for Mosby’s solo exploration, where he uses space, octaves, and well-constructed single lines to tell his story.
“Georgia’s World” – A slinky bossa-nova groove characterizes this tribute to Georgia O’Keefe. Mosby’s guitar ideas float in and out of the sonic tapestry of the ensemble, leaving plenty of space for the other musicians and melodic figures to be heard and appreciated. The moments of space add an even greater emphasis on what Mosby does play, and he takes this opportunity to build strong motifs that transcend the silent spaces to be picked up in the next moment of his playing.
With the rendition of “Norwegian Wood,” Mosby’s micro-tonal soloing on his Imrat guitar offers a fresh perspective. His interpretation of Glen Campbell’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” showcases his capacity for emotional storytelling through instrumental virtuosity.
The fusion of Eastern and Western traditions is not just theoretical but subtly palpable throughout the album. However, the influence of the East becomes the focus in “Norwegian Wood.” The seamless integration of Indian scales with jazz harmonies represents a cross-cultural conversation that challenges conventional musical boundaries, offering a taste of Mosby’s audacious creativity.
The album’s collaborations provide a fascinating array of contrasts and complements. Rhonda Smith’s bass playing enriches the groove with rhythmic sophistication, while Tom Scott’s saxophone brings in a jazz-fusion edge. Charlie Bisharat’s Grammy-winning violin artistry intertwines with Mosby’s guitar, adding an orchestral depth. These collaborations elevate Mosby’s vision, reflecting his inclusive approach to music-making and his belief in the power of collective creativity.
Mosby’s Land of Enchantment is an auditory experience and cultural exploration. It invites listeners into a world where tradition and innovation intersect, where Eastern and Western musical ideas coalesce, and where personal journeys find universal expression. It stands as a testament to the unending possibilities of musical exploration, offering something for listeners across genres and geographies.
Land of Enchantment is characterized by a predominantly mellow vibe, which showcases Mosby’s unique fusion of musical elements and his mastery of multiple genres. This soothing quality is integral to the album’s overall narrative and resonance. However, some listeners might find themselves yearning for moments where Mosby cuts loose, delving into a more intense ‘blowing’ tune. Such a departure could invigorate the album’s energy arc, adding an unexpected dimension to the experience. While the mellowness is undeniably beautiful, this absence of a more aggressive exploration might be felt by those attuned to the nuances of jazz improvisation.
The album’s innovative blend of Eastern and Western musical traditions, coupled with Mosby’s willingness to bridge disparate musical worlds, may also challenge some purists. Mosby’s pioneering approach, while admired for its creativity and breadth, may not resonate with everyone, particularly those with more traditional jazz sensibilities.
By utilizing his mastery of different musical styles and innovation in instrumentation, Mosby crafts an engaging narrative with an underlying theme of transformation. His musical depiction of the iconic American Southwest can most readily be heard in his use of space in his improvisations and his open harmonic structures that additionally capture the majestic mystique of the Southwest. Mosby’s philosophy of continual growth and discovery in music echoes through this album, making it a must-listen for those intrigued by the intersection of tradition and innovation, East and West, past and present.
In Land of Enchantment, Todd Mosby invites us into his world of sound, sharing his journey, philosophy, and the unending passion that fuels his creative exploration. It’s a reminder of the transcendent power of music to communicate across cultures, emotions, and time, embodying the essence of what makes jazz and fusion so universally appealing.