Album Review of
Adventures of the Moss Bear

Written by Robert Silverstein
January 15, 2023 - 12:50am EST
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Following the release of his latest pop-rock solo album, Easley Rider, in 2020, New Orleans pedal steel guitarist, vocalist and composer Dave Easley has been more than busy in the interim. Just after Easley Rider was sadly overlooked during the height of the pandemic, Dave also released an instrumental classic, released only on Lp and download through the auspices of Chris Schlarb’s Big Ego Records label , entitled Byways Of The Moon. Around the same time Dave released an album called Ivy Hall, as a member of the instrumental jazz-rock band Kolotov Mocktails, that was released by the group’s drummer Rob McKendrick and Three Coasts Music. In 2022 Dave took part in the CD release of the latest album with Musaica Chamber Ensemble called Chamber Music Collaborative, released by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage foundation.

Just before the 2022 release of Chamber Music Collaborative, featuring music that Dave Easley and bass player Dave Anderson wrote for 17 musicians, at the end of 2021 Dave Easley released an album called Adventures Of The Moss Bear, featuring an avant-garde, instrumental fusion trio that featured Dave Easley together with Dave Anderson (bass) and Tom Chute (drums).

A formidable musical team, A.C.E. have been described as New Orleans fusion music at its finest. In fact, Dave Easley is called one of the finest pedal steel guitarists in the U.S. today, with some referring to him as one of the world’s best. In 1984-85, Dave Anderson played for and took lessons with the legendary Weather Report bassist Jaco Pastorius in New York, who firmly encouraged the idea of being able to cross over between classical and jazz.

Drummer Tom Chute has been living and playing in New Orleans for almost 22 years. After studying percussion and ethnomusicology at the University of Iowa, Tom moved to New Orleans to more closely study the indigenous forms of music. A versatile rhythmist, Tom Chute has played with a wide variety of musical projects ranging from traditional to avant-garde.

Calling Adventures Of The Moss Bear wildly eclectic would be an understatement. From the opening notes of the first track, “Camellia Dreams” you just feel you’re in for a very sonically sharp set of instrumental fusion. Dave Easley’s pedal steel guitar quietly dominates the track yet he more than fits the bill while showing off the work of the in-step rhythm of Anderson and Chute. The easiest way to describe this opening track would be to some of Pat Metheny’s atmospheric improvisation tracks. “Five Gallon Hat” quickly follows suit with the trio pumping out another track of concentrated pedal-steel driving instrumental fusion.

Things take a unique turn with track 3 “Slender Forest”, which kind of harks back to Dave's 2020 solo album Easley Rider. A gentle-sounding, welcome though surprising, track that somehow fits into the instrumental setting on Adventures Of The Moss Bear, the 4:28 “Slender Forest” features Dave harmonizing on vocals together with his sometimes singing partner Kass Krebs.

Perhaps the highlight of Adventures Of The Moss Bear are the two extended pieces “Pop Medley From Outer Space”, which clocks in at just over 12-minutes and the title track “Adventures Of The Moss Bear”, that times in just over 18-minutes. Sandwiched in between is the humorous “Ozzy”, which sounds like King Crimson and, in fact might be the most progressive rock oriented track here.

The aforementioned “Pop Medley From Outer Space” is truly sci-fi in scope, with ideas that borrow from space-age exotica music from the 1950s as well as avant-garde styles with Dave pulling out the stops on his pedal-steel guitar. As cool as that is, the album highlight is surely the 18-minute title track, with its myriad of sonic twists and turns. Start to finish, Adventures Of The Moss Bear is one of the great Americana avant-garde meets jazz fusion albums of 2022.