Eddie Moore is a local jazz pianist in Kansas City. He’s been involved in music from a young age. An alumni of UMKC, Moore started his formal music training at Texas Southern University before earning his M.A. from UMKC. As we listened to his newest album, Kings and Queens, released in 2016 with The Outer Circle, we talked with him about his musical journey and how he developed his own unique style.
Q: What is your general style of music?
A: Everything I write is groove based, but also soulful. To me, it’s a specific color, like the blues. All of my music is infused with that groove. It makes you move, it’s not so abstract that you can’t move to it. The minor note, the bending of that, is like the presence of African American culture on European music and style. That’s kind of how jazz comes to be. I think jazz comes from when an African American musician picked up an instrument and played what he heard. Improvisation has always been in our music. That’s kind of like the soulful color, the blues. The blues is like a song to cope with pain, or your daily struggles, or even the good things. It is inherent in that color. We are painting a picture for the listener and telling a story.
Q: So why jazz?
A: Jazz is the only genre where you can really be free. It has no definition. That is why there are so many different styles and no one can say what jazz is. Jazz is the art of improvisation so with all that freedom, I can do whatever I want. We celebrate the individual, being them. If you’re a jazz musician and you played your music, I want to hear you, not you playing like someone else.
Q: What is Fresh to Def?
A: We do it every fourth Friday. I started it two years ago. Our thing is collaborating with a different singer or songwriter every month. We play and then the feature plays. Then the last part of it is an open jam. It’s been making a lot of my friends timid and uncomfortable to play on the spot. As a jazz artist, there’s a lot of soloing, but you know the song. You know there’s a turn coming up. But when we start making compositions on the spot, the band has gotten comfortable with that. Someone gets on the stage and I’m like “What do you want to hear? Give me a tempo.” Random people from the audience are brave enough to do that with us. It’s kind of crazy.
Q: As an educator, what is one thing you really try to impart on your students?
A: I try to impart openness. Don’t come to jazz and only be stuck in the old records. For the young musicians, find a jazz musician that you like now, like post-2000. I say go build your web. Find all the people they like, take it from them. And also just for them to be them and to really hear that in the music.
Q: Walk me through when you went in the studio with The Outer Circle to record Kings and Queens. How much guidance did you give them? How much did you write down versus just improvising?
A: I gave them melodic guidance actually. I actually came in with charts and perceived ideas. I kind of take the Miles Davis approach in building my band as I let them do what they’re going to do. I don’t say “Play this bass line like this” which a lot of guys will do. I was like alright, this is the song, this is the harmony, I’m going to play the melody, we kind of want it to go like this.
Q: Are you trying to build up a bigger following in Kansas City or do you see yourself going somewhere else eventually?
A: Kansas City is where it’s at. We are very lucky. A lot of guys are moving here from other places because it’s a great home base. I’m trying to have a home base here and be going other places. Kansas City is cheap enough that I can do that. If you are in New York, a lot of those musicians are making their money on tours, so they’re never home. They are playing in other people’s projects because it’s hard to build your own thing in a more expensive city. The jazz scene in Kansas City is vibrant, and it’s all around. There’s jazz and there’s barbeque. So as a tourist, you’re going to experience both. So Kansas City has always been a great place for music. I don’t think there’s anywhere better, per capita.
Q: Where do you see the future of jazz going?
A: I don’t know where it’s going because I don’t know where society is going with music. I saw a documentary back in 2011 that said that two percent of people that buy music, buy jazz music. I don’t even think it’s one percent anymore. It’s not even because people don’t like jazz. How many albums have you guys bought in the last month? Not alone instrumental albums. Jazz is going a lot of different places, I think the sky’s the limit.