Moss is a vocal group which defies categorization, grown from friends wanting to investigate various forms of music with a modern sensibility, stepping outside of comfort zones and taking chances in arranging and composition. Their debut album on Sunnyside was considered one of the best albums of the last decade by Downbeat who called it ‘a hushed masterpiece’. The diverse collection of souls in Moss currently consists of Kate McGarry, Jo Lawry, Lauren Kinhan, Theo Bleckmannand Peter Eldridge. Moss has performed in New York CIty as well as Europe. Though its members are now spread out all over the country, talk of another project and live performances is looming large, the wheels are turning again.
It began with a chance meeting, onboard a New York-bound train, between Luciana Souza
and Peter Eldridge. They began to ruminate about various friends who shared their enthusiasm, and prowess, for vocal experimentation. A sort of jazz vocal summit. Theo Bleckmann's name came up, then Kate McGarry's, then Eldridge's longtime New York Voices compatriot Lauren Kinhan. Bringing the five together, the goal was, says Souza, "to write, study, rehearse and blend our different styles of singing, creating a collective sound."
A 2005 gig at Joe's Pub and a subsequent performance in L.A. led to this project. As Moss (a curious name whose roots remain mysterious), they set out, says Souza, to shape an album "that reveals as much about who we are as people as it does who we are as singers. Hopefully, each song reveals the curiosity and uniqueness of each voice, and the wonderful and intangible thing that happens when a group of friends blend their voices and sensibilities into one. " She need not worry.
All-star collaborations can be tricky, and often disastrous, endeavors, plagued by ego clashes and cross-purposes. Not this one. What emerges is a series of soft-hewed hymns, drawing on the poetry of Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, Neil Young, e.e. cummings and all five of the participants, that are at once soulstirring , majestic, comforting, inquisitive, hypnotic and wise. Indeed, as Souza suggests, their beauty is ultimately intangible.
- Christopher Loudon, JazzTimes
Innovative vocal ensembles are a rare breed, and Moss is sui generis. The brainchild of New York Voices singers Peter Eldridge and Lauren Kinhan, wistful Brazilian Luciana Souza, delectably upbeat Kate McGarry and "mad" genius Theo Bleckmann, Moss grew slowly and quietly far from New York's mainstream limelight.
Moss draws wide covers from folk-rock (Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits), lyrics from poets (McGarry's exquisite contrapuntal setting of an e.e. cummings love ode) and great inspiration from within the sympathetic singers' circle. Their superbly attuned voices weave vocal tapestries plush as velvet, mysterious as photosynthesis, nuanced as clouds, yet simple as greens. Moss digs into and blends medieval plainsong with gospel (easy-listening but hard-parsing "Object Devotion"), folk with jazz (a deeply empathetic "Old Man") and avant-garde harmony with electrified Eastern ululations ("Orchard," Bleckmann's hair-raising setting of mystical Sufi poet Rumi). It's as uncategorizable as it is enchanting.
The stately pace of this debut is as daring as the venture itself. Seldom rising above poised whispers and medium tempo, Moss magically informs each song with sweet, dreamy texture that speak with astounding self-assurance. (Without Souza, an April date at Scullers in Boston rang more extroverted). Moods evoked are fascinatingly complex: exhausted yet exuberant ("There Alone Go I"); bemused yet belligerent ("Busy Being Blue"). All's coolly planned and paced, if little improvised: Ben Monder and Keith Ganz's guitar solos are welcome brief understatements. Drummer Ben Wittman produces edgy sensitivity and wide-eyed ardor. Beautiful moments grow when you listen twice: the five-part resolution on "Home," sublimely serene backup on "Take It With Me," the open-road wordless brushed samba.
- Fred Bouchard, DownBeat
...soul stirring , majestic, comforting, inquisitive, hypnotic...their beauty is ultimately intangible. - Christopher Loudon, JazzTimes
Their superbly attuned voices weave vocal tapestries plush as velvet, mysterious as photosynthesis, nuanced as clouds, yet simple as greens. It's as uncategorizable as it is enchanting.
- Fred Bouchard, DownBeat
Get this. This jazz vocal supergroup has just created the greatest vocal fusion of jazz, rock and folk music since the first record by Bobby McFerrin 26 years ago... . It's as if they invented an entirely new blend of urban madrigalism for the 21st century, composed of coffee shop, jazz club, off-Broadway theater and church basement.
- Jeff Simon, Buffalo News