Featured Musician - October 2005
Name: Robert Moore
Instrument: Singer/songwriter who also plays trumpet and harmonica.
Early Years/Education: Born in Tallahassee, Florida and growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, I had a typical Southern up-bringing, going to church three times a week. My brothers and sister and I would sing our butts off. We'd sing and harmonize all the time. That was the best part of going to church! When I was born my father was serving in Korea, so I was two years old before I met him. Both my parents always encouraged us to do whatever we wanted. I got into music in the fourth grade and chose the trumpet simply because it was shiny. The music program was privately run and community-based.
I got more into singing in high school and picked up the harmonica. I was in a few bands but didn't start performing on a regular basis until college. I went to school at Colorado State University to study music. When it came time to declare an instrument I chose the trumpet but it was like starting over. Hearing King Pleasure on the radio was the take-off point for my lifelong interest in jazz. Jazz took me beyond where the blues and rock were taking me.
Teaching: After college I taught music in Wyoming and Colorado. I taught elementary school music, beginning band, high school band and choir, directed a jazz band program, and taught college. I wasn't a very good teacher...I got into it because I thought I'd be making music all day long. In fact, the chances you get to actually make music are rare. I went back to school around 1980 to the U. of Oregon to get a Masters in music education because I thought that if I was making more money I'd stay in it but it didn't work out that way. My first priority wasn't the students, it was music; I was greatly frustrated. I did manage to play gigs at night and kept performing. The last year I taught, the system was very poorly funded. I had submitted a budget for the year for $1200. They cut it to $880. At the same time I got this figure returned to me, in the same budget was listed an expense for forty new football uniforms at $1100 each. That says it right there.
Birmingham: I eventually settled in Birmingham, Alabama where I lived for twenty years. There I had a working band with bassist Cleve Eaton (longtime Count Basie sideman), amazing guitarist Mark Kimbrell (Groove Holmes Band) and stellar drummer Chris Fryar. We were voted "best local band" in the '96 and '98 Readers' Poll, Black and White Magazine. We played all the local and regional festivals, as well as clubs in New Orleans, Atlanta and the Carolinas.
Oregon: I moved to Oregon about six weeks ago, but I've been visiting here off and on for years. As a grad student in Eugene I got to know Nancy King, Steve Christofferson, Glen Moore, the whole crew. More recently, I came out to play a gig at the Chehalem Winery in Newberg and met someone; that's when I decided to move here. I've had several years when I didn't have to supplement my musician's income, but my day gig is building custom furniture. I'm in the process of setting up shop in Portland.
Musical Influences : The biggest influence on my singing is King Pleasure. Next would be Mark Murphy and Eddie Jefferson. Another huge influence is Nancy King. When Mark Murphy was playing in Seattle at the New Orleans Restaurant around 1995. I got a call from Nancy so I went to the gig. That was the first time he invited me up on the stage to sing with him.
My biggest influence on trumpet is absolutely Chet Baker. I positively wore out copies of Chet's recordings with Gerry Mulligan. Oliver Nelson has also had quite an impact on me.
Most Satisfying Experience: They come every "good" show, which is not every show. Most recently was the last time I played the Bijou café with Nancy King and Rebecca Kilgore. Another satisfying experience was once when I got a phone call from a woman who was crying. She'd heard one of my tunes on the radio. She said, "This song is my life, I can't believe you're singing my life." Just communicating the impact of a lyric to an audience when they "get it" is very rewarding.
Favorite Recordings: King Pleasure's "The Source," Oliver Nelson's "Blues and the Abstract Truth," "Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan" on Prestige, Louis Jordan and His Timpani Five, Nancy King and Steve Wolfe, "First Date," "Johnny Mercer Sings Johnny Mercer" and Horace Silver with the Jazz Messengers.
Discography: Wildcat (1995), Serve You Ma'am (1998) Cool Blue (2000); I also wrote the music for a children's book, "Little Girls Have to Sleep" which comes with a cassette performance of me doing an original, "Jaybird Lullaby," a jazz waltz for children and adults. The city of Birmingham commissioned me to write a song to help promote the city. It's called "Sweet Birmingham;" Taj Mahal performed the official version.
Gigs: Bijou Café, October 21 with Gordon Lee, Scott Steed and Alan Tarpinian They've been doing a series, "Jazz at the Bijou" which includes a buffet dinner at 7:30 and music from 8pm until 11pm, $15 cover; I'll be at Abou Karim in a duo setting on October 28; and I'll be back at the Bijou on November 25. You can also see me on cable Portland Community Media that's airing right now. We did four originals and it also features Glen Moore, Carlton Jackson, and David Valdez.
Future Plans: I'm ready to record again...I've got a bunch of songs, but I need to develop a regular band that I feel comfortable with before that happens.
Other Comments: New Orleans is such a unique place...the real music is created and played there. You can't show me any American music that wasn't birthed in New Orleans. It starts there and mutates back in Los Angeles or New York.
Quote From Drummer Ron Steen: Robert Moore is a very talented musician. . . Tom Waitts meets Chet Baker.
Interviewer's note: If you like Mark Murphy, Robert has the voice quality and approach to satisfy.
-- Interviewed by Rita Rega