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Music Review: Rob Mosher’s Storytime – The Tortoise

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The musical odyssey can be an interesting experience. In the wrong hands, a wandering and pretentious sonic journey can be bland and ridiculous. In the right hands, like those of Rob Mosher and his 10-piece ensemble Storytime, the excursion is more than worthwhile.

Mosher, just 28 years old, has received a Juno award and several grants from the Canada Council for the Arts. An immensely talented multi-reed man, Mosher studied jazz performance at the University of Toronto and exchanged ideas with classical composers to formulate his own musical outlook. Since then he has been working his way up the New York ladder as both a leader and a side performer, adding his impeccable precision where needed.

With Storytime, Mosher formed his own ensemble. Filled with gifted musicians with jazz, classical, and improv backgrounds, Storytime is an eclectic and exciting 10-piece collaboration. “I was searching for a band name that welcomed people into my music without creating expectations of what they’d hear,” Mosher explains when asked about the group’s name. “Hearing stories as a kid was easy fun and the more birthday candles I had on my cake the more I appreciated the deeper messages underneath.”

Those deeper messages formulate the starting point of Storytime’s debut CD The Tortoise.

Mosher, a self-taught composer, works through his compositions with a clear visual sense of where he wants the music to take the listener. Profound components underscore the songs, creating an atmosphere and a sound that resonates genuinely.

Album opener “On A Clear Day” serves as a vehicle for flugelhorn player Micah Killion. He takes centre stage, playing strongly and lovingly. Mosher’s work allows Killion to shine, to thrive, to flourish.

Mosher’s compositions exist for his players and his musical sensibilities allow him the grace to grant instruments moments that many other composers wouldn’t have offered. Often his soprano sax and oboe exist as auxiliary instruments, with Mosher’s desire directly on the act of showcasing the members of Storytime.

Brian Landrus is given his moment in the sun on “Silhouette of the Man in the Fog,” a touching and dark track that is underscored by Mosher’s expressive English horn. It is Landrus’ baritone sax that really peels back the layers, however, and his vigorous solo highlights the piece.

Guitarist Nir Felder moves lithely through the arrangements, offering a host of different sounds from his instrument. He flows into Hawaiian slide guitar on “Twilight” and strikingly plays the acoustic on “Sleepless Lullaby.” And Peter Hess showcases his talents with a bold tenor sax solo on “The Forgotten.”

Rob Mosher’s Storytime is an exciting collective. The instrumentalists are talented and unique, each with a story to tell and a vision for the music they play. The passion here is unmistakable and nobody plays simply for the sake of being brassy or flashy. Instead, the 10 members modestly play their parts in Mosher’s affectionate, beautiful compositions. The Tortoise is a graceful, generous, lyrical debut. It is a musical odyssey well worth embarking upon.

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About Jordan Richardson