It's tempting to say that the lineup for the 11th annual Eddie Moore Jazz Festival is the best one yet. After more than a decade of adventurous bookings in honor of the much-loved Bay Area drummer who once shared the stage with giants like Sonny Rollins and Betty Carter, the weeklong series of concerts presented by local nonprofit Jazz in Flight has bloomed into the region's most respected, eclectic jazz summit — no small feat given the profusion of jazz-related galas around these parts. Highlights of this year's fete include the earthy spirit-power of Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio (with Archie Shepp), the Danish big-band boom of Pierre Dørge & the New Jungle Orchestra (with John Tchicai), and the East-meets-West alliance of L.A. flutist James Newton and Indian saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath and mridangam player Poovalur Srinivasan.
The arguable must-see act on the program is Sex Mob, a blasphemously riveting New York outfit led by fiery trumpeter/composer (and Berkeley High grad) Steven Bernstein. The band has earned considerable renown in the downtown NYC creative-music community for its warped covers of pop tunes by the likes of Prince, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, James Brown, and Nirvana. The group also plays some heady originals and gives due props to the “tradition” by putting a wild spin on classic Duke Ellington. On the dynamic new album Solid Sender, Duke's familiar Cotton Club-era romp “The Mooch” gets a self-described “Storyville on mescaline” treatment, which colors the composition's already funky hue to a brazen, get-down-low-on-the-dance-floor psychedelia. Venturing far beyond trippy shtick, Sex Mob is serious about making music that's slightly twisted and sexy-fun.