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Snaring Fame

April 12, 2012 By:
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Isn't it Rich?

No, actually, recalls Carl Moritz of his Bar Mitzvah days, it was Philly Joe Jones whom he most admired as a drummer -- although Buddy Rich deserves a drum roll as well.

The 22-year-old Bala Cynwyd native son is on his own roll now, just returned from the International Jazz Congress in Amsterdam as part of the Temple U. Jazz Quartet, which made the finals.

He may have been thousands of miles away from his current South Philly digs but, somehow, he felt home: Danny Janklow, another Jewish member of the quartet, is also his roommate.

Club owners are finding room in jazz circles to beat the drums to accommodate the big band sounds of Moritz, whose uncle, Louis Bernstein, has himself drawn national attention for his drum sets collection that date back nearly a century.

If Lou's the family centurion in charge of drum history, then his nephew is the road warrior, traveling with the quartet and other Temple jazz configurations, corralling attention and applause and CDs.

On his own, Moritz performs regular gigs locally, where crowds at Chris' Jazz Cafe in Center City know him well. But he's never really been a stranger there, performing through college.

But Amsterdam? Seems like a paid vacation -- with a lot of hard work, of course, Moritz says of the five-day jazz jaunt, which included performances at the Bimhuis, "the most prestigious hall in the Netherlands."

He's a study in cool -- and it shows up in the most academic of circles. Just a few weeks back, he gave his senior recital, notes Moritz, "culminating a wonderful four years playing with some of the best East Coast musicians," Temple alumni who came in to jam with the jazz students.

 

They could have gone anywhere -- and some did: The jazz program has also drawn such scintillating "sidemen" as Slide Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Mel Lewis, Max Roach, McCoy Tyner and Wynton Marsalis, musical mentors onstage.

Take a spin into his history and Moritz beats back mentions of the latest and the trendiest of performers as his idols of the kings include the classiest. "My first jazz record was 'Frank Sinatra and Count Basie Playing Live at the Sands,' " he says admiringly of the man who did it his way and the man counted among the best on piano and organ.

Moritz and his colleagues get a double stroke from Terell Stafford, Temple's director of jazz studies. "Like all of our jazz students, Carl is an extremely versatile and mature musician," he said. "I'm confident he'll have continued success as a professional drummer."

Moritz has always approached playing with a clear head -- even back at his Bar Mitzvah. Should it really surprise anyone that Moritz did the Haftorah alongside some hot jazz? "I played a lot of drum pieces," he recalls with a laugh of the post-ritual revelry.

The self-described "old school" fan has new percussion plans, including moving to New York next year. Some be-bop and being a parent? "All I want to do is play music and have a family."

He calls his parents, Lowell and Paula Moritz, great role models. They are "incredibly important to me; you see so much of my parents in me," he says.

They have helped "balance my life" and also taught him to drum "roll with the punches."

With a flick of his wrists, he also gives back a bit as occasional member of Sage & Spirit, the "house band" of Main Line Reform Temple, alongside Jewish soulsters including Rabbi Ethan Franzel of Main Line -- and Uncle Lou.

But the Lower Merion High School grad with high hopes is not into cymbal crashes of catching attention. Low-key, he bangs the drum ... with finesse. Fame is not so much a screeching siren call as a sweet melody.

"Everything in due time," says the up-and-comer.

 

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