Words & Images by: Jake Krolick
Mocean Worker :: 09.06.07 :: World Cafe Live :: Philadelphia, PA
There's this famous scene in the Simpsons where you see a jazz radio station slogan that states, "139 Americans Can't Be Wrong." Jazz is viewed as a difficult genre for the majority to wrap their ears around. Adam Dorn aka Mocean Worker (pronounced Motion Worker) has a unique take on jazz that makes the music a bit more accessible. In a recent NPR interview the Philadelphia native said, "You want to get their butts moving before you appeal to their minds." Simply give Mocean Worker's fifth record, Cinco De Mowo! a spin and just try to sit still.
| Adam Dorn :: 09.06.07|
Using what is an incomparable sound, Adam Dorn mixed and matched fresh beat-making with live and not-so-live samples of jazz's heavyweights on Cinco De Mowo!. Mocean Worker's live show picked up where the album left off, as the musicians around Dorn became his human equivalent of mixing equipment and turntables.
The jazz mixologist gathered a fine blend of Manhattan's funk, jazz and soul players in Philadelphia to premier the live incarnation, which breathed life into the new album. Mocean Worker Live featured Dorn on bass and sampler, Oli Rockberger on keys, Cheme Gastelum on saxophones and flute, Mike Williams on trumpet, Zach Danziger on drums and Isabel Walker on percussion. MoWo jazz is a highly danceable take on the art form. The music was original, not in a Medeski Martin & Wood or Soulive sort of way, but created out of snippets of well-known, recognizable music.
Dorn started his musical career as a bass player and studio musician. He adopted the name Mocean Worker during his drum 'n' bass DJ days. Jazz's answer to Girl Talk didn't miss a beat or an era as he and the band mixed yesteryear jazz grooves with current rhythms. Songs like "Reykjavik" and "Shake Ya Boogie" found their way deep into our subconscious, their infectious melodies echoed in our minds like remnants of an illegal juke joint.
| Mocean Worker :: 09.06.07|
Throughout Mocean Worker's recent albums Dorn has dabbled with everyone from trumpeter Herb Alpert to bassist Marcus Miller and even a little Judy Garland. Where did Dorn's affection for jazz start? It doesn't hurt having a father, Joel Dorn, who according to John Cusack's character in High Fidelity had the number two best job of all time - staff producer at Atlantic records between 1964 and 1973. Accordingly, Adam Dorn spent his life around the world's top jazz musicians. He sat with his father while he recorded The Neville Brothers record Fiyo on the Bayou and missed his prom to spend a night in the studio with Miles Davis.
Now Dorn is leading jazz's danceable campaign through Philadelphia using skills he's acquired along the way. The head bopping, body shaking, pun making maestro used his exceptionally personable stage presence and perfect timing to haul fans in fast. He called out playfully to the audience, reciting tidbits from songs and joking with the meager but spirited crowd. What was remarkable was how Dorn's live show was such a completely different animal than his studio work. Live, Dorn and company deconstructed the album's raw, jazzy roots into a style of play managed by musicians who elaborated on the timeless riffs.
The musicians were all quite gifted, and despite having only played about a dozen shows together, each stepped-up to offer soaring brass solos or a beat wrapped up in Dorn's bass lined coat. Nothing can elevate a jazzy dance party like a funky flute. Cheme Gastelum was no Rahsaan Roland Kirk but he sure got the job done in Philly. His flute pierced the night with its silver ballet, airy notes slicing through the room, splattering funky soul on the walls.
| Mocean Worker :: 09.06.07|
In the end, it was Dorn's playing and antics that won our attention. His spectacular bass work held a deep, sticky pocket reminiscent of George Porter Jr. and Jamaaladeen Tacuma, but with a MoWo style that's all his own. Dorn's heavy thumb thumped the strings as he pointed the neck of his bass skyward. He showed a little skin of his teeth as he waved his band off to take a solo. His hand set off on a bouncing adventure repeatedly dipping into the boom pouch to toss us blasts of bassy deliciousness. Mocean Worker has embarked on a trek down a new path, escaping the expectations of the drum 'n' bass scene to freely embrace his jazz and funk influences.
You can judge a band's character in many ways. A good judge of the Mocean Worker band was their unscripted "Son of Sanford" encore. Dorn's sweat-soaked tee clung to him as he spent his last bit of energy onstage. The song drew heavily from the '30s big band swing sounds of Cab Calloway and left the audience with a vicious craving for more. Mocean Worker's music connected in ways not seen before. Dorn has managed to push the door open a little wider, letting more people appreciate the genre of jazz. As Dorn said, "Jazz was not only at Lincoln Center in a tux." No Adam, it certainly wasn't, and it laughed and danced its head off at the World Cafe Live.
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