Jemeel Moondoc

alto saxophone

Jemeel Moondoc

Photo by Dmitrij Matvejev

Born in Chicago, Jemeel Moondoc moved to the East Village in 1971 after two years as a member of Cecil Taylor’s Black Music Ensemble that was in residence at Antioch College. After arriving in New York City, Moondoc started composing for his Ensemble Muntu. ( Over the past 40 years, Moondoc has led over 20 different ensembles and has released 25 recordings of music that he has composed for his bands of various groupings and instrumentation.  Strong, early compositional influences were Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington, understanding, as did Mingus and Ellington, that the strength and power of composition lies with the individual and unique talents of the orchestra members.  Moondoc also uses a technique called ‘conduction,’ which is an improvisational conducting technique where the conductor can guide the entire ensemble through unwritten passages.  Moondoc’s The Zoo Keepers House (2014, Relative Pitch label) is a five-part, 60-minute project exploring his current ideas for obtaining an improvisational freedom by composing for only transposing instruments (Little Blue Elvira for trombone, sax, trumpet, bass and drums). Yet on the same program, Moondoc attempts to reach the same freedoms by composing for keyboard along with other instruments. Jemeel will tour the project this fall in Europe. For his Jus Grew Orchestra, Jemeel composed for and conducted a 75-minute work, Live at the Visions Festival (Ayler Records, 2003) for ten pieces, and Spirit House (2001, Eremite), a work for 12 musicians that premiered and was recorded live at the University of Mass Golden Circle Theater.  With his sextet (bass, drums, vibes, sax, trumpet), Jemeel composed a 60-minute program, Revolt of the Negro Lawn Jockeys (Eremite, 2001).  This music came out of Moondoc’s experiences in his high school Marching Band.

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Recordings featuring Jemeel Moondoc