Artist Spotlight: Tom Moon’s Jazz Casual

Oct. 12, 2018

Tom Moon is a music journalist, award-winning author, a regular contributor for National Public Radio and above all, a jazz saxophonist. Moon’s jazz sax is the beacon for all of his work, from his journalistic writing to his incredible ear for what makes a song exceptional.

Tom Moon

Tom Moon is a music journalist, award-winning author, a regular contributor for National Public Radio and above all, a jazz saxophonist. Moon’s jazz sax is the beacon for all of his work, from his journalistic writing to his incredible ear for what makes a song exceptional. Moon has written for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Rolling Stone, GQ and many more. Moon’s very first book released in 2008, 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, is a New York Times best seller. Moon Hotel Lounge Project released the album Into the Ojalá from Moon’s personal label, Frosty Cordial Records in 2011. Despite writerly accolades like receiving the Deems Taylor Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (twice), Moon always finds himself coming back to jazz.

Moon says, “Music is expressing something that eludes words.” Moon continues, “I believe music is an engine for empathy. When we listen to music, we are instantly transported into a place where we can come in touch with the experiences of others. It is an ear to ear encounter. No other art does it quite like that. Music can bypass the intellect entirely. It can just go straight to the heart.Moon’s zeal for music has been with him since he was a teenager during his time at Langley High School in Virginia, where he played in the school’s jazz and concert bands, led by George Horan — the only band director in Fairfax County who refused to field a marching band. Horan’s dedication to music shaped Moon’s understanding of the commitment involved in being a musician.

Moon says, “Horan was a classical trumpet player, and he was a really wonderful jazz trumpet player. His motto became my motto. He would say, ‘I am not a music teacher. I am a musician who teaches music,’ and I used that as a critic for years. I would say ‘I am not a music critic, I am a musician who writes about music’.” Moon continues, “He practiced constantly. We all learned how to be musicians from him and studied his example. It was great being around him and seeing him get excited about all kinds of music, not just jazz.” Moon and his bandmates soon learned that great musicians are constantly studying, working to find influence in all genres.

Moon says, “I remember when Steely Dan’s record came out. We didn’t have rehearsal that day, but we sat in the practice room by the turntable and we listened to Steely Dan’s Aja. He just talked about how he thought it was such an important record and he helped us listen to it even though it was a pop record. My love for music in general comes from him.” This kind of appreciation for all genres of music was definitely a gateway into Moon’s career as a writer, but manifests itself beautifully when he plays.

tom moon playing jazz

It starts with the soft yet quick pitter patter across the cymbal, the sound’s consistency holding its own behind a strong synth bass. Then the bongos appear, peppering the song with an upbeat rhythm that is practically hiding from the listener. Slowly, the piano enters the song, as if trying to keep polite. The instruments come together to form something exciting and animated, but Moon’s the sound of Moon’s sax are sedate, easing the listener into the full symmetry of the song.

This is the start of Seed the Future, the third track on Into the Ojala. The album itself is a convergence of American and Latin jazz, with alluring Brazilian bossa nova expressions and smooth jazz.

Many of the album’s best instrumental attributes can be difficult to catch without a keen ear, but that is exactly what Moon wants – for you to listen intently. Moon says, “People have so many options for what to listen to, and there is so much bombardment in terms of sound. I think people hardly ever really listen to music.” Moon continues, “They appreciate it when it’s there, they don’t go deeply into the experience or give themselves over to it, or listen without watching something. Smartphones enable anyone to hear anything; someone recommends a record and two seconds later you can get it. But how long do you stay with it? What kind of open mind do you have when you encounter it?”

For Tom Moon, music has the opportunity to create an experience of sentiment, emotion, and empathy. This model colors the experience he creates with Tom Moon’s Jazz Casual, his band made up of talented musicians who play the room just right. Jazz Casual takes pride in having a musical ear that flawlessly determines what is best suited for any given audience or event. Moon says, “We want to make people experience a sense of ease and warmth and welcoming, simply from the way we play. It doesn’t matter if they know the song or not. When you have that kind of mentality and you walk into a space, people sense it.” Moon continues, “The mandate is, ‘what can I do to enhance the room?’ That is our only real job.” If you ever have the pleasure of listening to Tom Moon’s Jazz Casual live, you’ll find yourself enamored within the music. Moon says, “For me, what music brings to an event is almost an atmosphere.” Moon continues, “Before people even realize they’re hearing something, they’re in it. That idea of something that’s special and a little bit off or out of the way, maybe you don’t even see it, but you hear it. There’s something magic about that.”

If you would like to book Tom Moon’s Jazz Casual for your next event or to discuss additional entertainment and live music bookings in Philadelphia, contact our Talent Buyer, Sean Timmons at 215-240-8552.

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