When he got in a Stuttgart studio to produce this album with Joachim Ernst Berendt in 1976, Alphonse Mouzon could look back on an intense and multi-faceted decade of career. This led him from his breakthrough with composer and arranger Gil Evans in 1969 followed by brief period in Roy Ayers’ band Ubiquity. For soul singer Eugene McDaniels he delivered Black Power grooves to be sampled by the HipHop scene, and then eventually formed Weather Report in 1970 with Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Miroslav Vituos. Only two years later highly-demanded Mouzon got an offer from the McCoy Tyner band, in 1973 founded the cult fusion band Eleventh House with Larry Coryell and Mike Mandel and created a parallel work of four LPs for the Blue Note label until 1975. Sounds quite dynamic, doesn’t it?
You can feel this go-getting of Mouzon’s incredibly productive years in every single track of “Virtue”. In his band - called the “most fruitful” by the writer of the original album’s liner notes - he gathered soprano and alto saxophone player Gary Bartz known for his work with Miles Davis, keyboard and piano master Stu Goldberg with superb mastery from his Steinway to his Mini Moog, plus the pumping and boiling electric bass guitar of Welton Gite. Being the third MPS teamwork of Berendt and Mouzon after Joachim Kühn’s “Hip Elegy” and the trio Mangelsdorff–Pastorius–Mouzon (“Trilogue”) it throws different lights on this exceptional and versatile musician. We encounter him not only as a drummer but also on synthesizers, organ and xylophone to name but a few additional instruments – and as a singer, too! And we witness his ability to adapt styles from jazz to rock to funk.
The album kicks off with a powerful and accessible “Master Funk” revealing an arrangement that hints to the Stevie Wonder albums of this period (indeed Mouzon also had played with him!). “Baker’s Daughter” starts with a lyrical intro lead by Bartz’ soprano sax which is then doubled by Mouzon’s voice as it flows into an impressive power play by each of the four artists. “Come Into My Life” rests in a peaceful, emotional mood displaying Goldberg’s and Bartz’ lyrical side. “Nyctophobia” is a reinterpretation of a piece that Mouzon already recorded with The Eleventh House, played in similar (or even slightly higher) breakneck speed as the original and pairing the best qualities of fusion and free, in a fiery character that is even put in the shade by the directly following title track. “Poobli” takes the role of a funky breather with its spacey moog and sax lines, eventually making room for Mouzon’s finale. He has spared his solo performance for the end and now it comes in the shape of a suite: The four multi-layered movements, which deploy an uncountable range of percussion instruments and testify that he is not only a rhythmical but also melodic improviser, unite a jazz-rock improvisation with colours of the African and Afro-Brazilian world. Thus they summon up the strength of one of the most impressive percussion wizards of the jazz history.