Oh, the stories Adam Dorn -- aka Mocean Worker -- can tell. You see, he's been around. When he was barely out of short pants, Adam began working as an assistant to bassist/producer Marcus Miller (Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, EU). He has compiled and produced dozens of jazz and R&B reissues. Can others on the cutting edge of contemporary music boast of working on a Judy Garland retrospective? No. His credits as musician include collaborations with Bill Frissell, Hal Willner, Brian Eno and that shaggy little guy from U2. The man he calls "Pops" is none other than legendary producer Joel Dorn (Roberta Flack, John Coltrane, Leon Redbone). And under the Mocean Worker moniker, he has released three albums of genre-defying electronic music: Home Movies from the Brain Forest (1998); Mixed Emotional Features (1999); and Aural & Hearty (2000).
Which brings us to the point: With the release of Enter The MoWo! (the debut title on his MoWo! Inc. imprint), Adam has created an album that represents the culmination of his highly varied musical experiences and relationships.
"This is the first Mocean Worker record where I feel that I've captured on disc what's always been in my head," he says. "In the past, I'd talk about all these artists I grew up knowing, and ended up working with -- Hal Willner, Bill Frisell, or David "Fathead" Newman -- but then you'd hear my records, and they didn't always accurately reflect where I wanted to go musically."
Where Mocean Worker wanted to go musically on Enter The MoWo! was a realm where elements of jazz, funk and electronic music co-exist in a lively, refreshing fashion. The result is an album that merits the generous application of adjectives like "sophisticated" and "playful" more than another damn Cole Porter revival, and it's a hell of a lot hipper, to boot. Through the marvels of modern technology, Adam orchestrates a virtual flute battle between the legendary Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Franck Gauthier of French rock band Rinôçérôse ("Shamma Lamma Ding Dong"). He recasts a classic Nina Simone vocal over a bed of rippling piano and atmospheric beats ("Blackbird"). The tracks that don't rely on the contributions of dead icons are equally engaging: The driving percussion, flamenco guitar and rousing mouth organ of the irresistible hip-shaker "Move"; the funky breaks and zany sound effects of the 21st century burlesque classic "That's What's Happening Tonight"; the spooky ambience of "Only the Shadow Knows."
He didn't do it all single-handedly, of course. During the making of Enter The MoWo!, Adam wore the pages of his little black book to tissue. In addition to the aforementioned participants, between the grooves of these twelve tracks you'll find such disparate artists as producer and multi-instrumentalist Hal Willner; guitarist Bill Frissell; maverick brass players Briggan Krauss and Steve Bernstein of Sex Mob, and Curtis Fowlkes from the Jazz Passengers; saxophone great David "Fathead" Newman and Houston Person; keyboard innovator Les McCann; jazz chanteuse Jane Monheit and guitarist Dan Seta of Idaho (both featured on the mesmerizing "Float"); and singer-songwriter Ambrosia Parsley of Shivaree ("I'll Take The Woods").
Too many cooks? Nah. Even with all those contributors, Adam made sure to keep Enter The MoWo! concise and action-packed. "There's a reason why there's only a dozen songs, and it's 49 minutes long," he declares. "I wanted to feel like I was a kid again, and this album could be on a single piece of vinyl, with a clearly delineated Side A and Side B." Hence the careful programming of the final three tracks, which bring the tone of the album down to a gentle simmer. "You have movement and boisterous beats going on up front," he notes. "I wanted the last few cuts to have a landing effect, and create an end-of-the-evening vibe."
The modest running time of Enter The MoWo! belies the album's long gestation period. While his first two albums were recorded in a matter of weeks, this time (due to the, ahem, endlessly fascinating machinations of the music industry) Adam had the luxury of living with the material for months. Many, many months. As he noticed which of his compositions were eliciting the most enthusiastic reactions from the lucky few who heard them, he customized the final product accordingly. "I literally pulled five tracks off the original version of the album, and replaced them with five new ones," he reveals.
Although more than three years have passed between Mocean Worker albums, Adam has been far from idle. In keeping with his eclectic aesthetic, he remixed tracks including "Explosivo" by Tenacious D ("You need to work out on an Olympic level to be able to hang out with Jack Black"), a brass choir rendition of "Joy To The World" for the Christmas Remixed compilation, and a forthcoming interpretation of the 1970 soul hit "Express Yourself" by Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. As part of Willner's Whoops, I'm An Indian ensemble, he appears on two tracks on the recent Bird Up: The Charlie Parker Remix Project . In addition to scoring the Sundance pick The Doe Boy and two documentaries for HBO, his music popped up in commercials for Bailey's Irish Crème and KIA automobiles (sold separately), and on Six Feet Under. Perhaps most significantly, his involvement in the soundtrack for director Wim Wenders' film Million Dollar Hotel found him working directly with Bono, Frissell, and pioneering electronic musician Brian Eno (to whom the Enter The MoWo! closer, "Collection Two," is dedicated). To put it simply, "I like the randomness of the offers that come my way."
With Enter The MoWo!, Adam Dorn delivers the most consummate Mocean Worker platter to date, crafted to make the most of his ample resources and manifold experiences -- if you've got it, flaunt it. It is as warm and vivacious as a room full of cappuccino-fueled Playboy bunnies modeling fur coats, contemporary in construction, but classic in tone. "As an artist, you change over time," the artist concludes. Do not fear change. Change is good. In this case, very, very good. "We're all growing up, and getting older. I'm not about making drum & bass anymore. This record is not for some 16-year-old kid who wants to take ecstasy and dehydrate himself. But if you like St. Germain, Gotan Project, Mister Scruff or Nicola Conte, you should dig my album, too."