Jazz pianist, educator and composer Eddie Moore was raised in Houston and began playing the piano at the age of 4. The local jazz musician and frontman of Eddie Moore & The Outer Circle admits that he hated practicing the piano as a child.
“My mother used to make me practice like a chore,” Moore said. “Man, every day before I could go outside and play. I hated it!”
That aversion to the piano continued through his childhood until one day, outside the window that was just behind the piano he played, he heard cheers. His friends — initially waiting for him to join them outside — were instead cheering him on.
“[It] kind of put things in place for me at the time,” he said. From then on, he “was introduced to everything from Frank Zappa to Prince, Miles Davis and Beethoven. [My parents] gave me a ton of freedom to explore and experiment while I was surrounded by all walks of life.”
After studying at Texas Southern University, Moore relocated to Kansas City, Missouri, to study under modern-day jazz legend Bobby Watson at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Calling Watson one of the last legends of jazz culture, Moore’s approach to music was also impacted by Watson’s wife, vocalist Pam Watson, specifically noting the importance of his time spent touring with her.
“Over the years I realized the main thing they pushed was individuality and respect for where music comes from,” he said of the Watsons. “Take chances and kick ass!”
His approach to jazz and artistry was also directly influenced by his time in Texas and Kansas City, and the influence from his parents (his dad, an avid listener who brought music to the halls of their home, and his mom, a successful singer in her own right).
“It is still these things that influence me today,” he said. “I find myself drawing from things close to me to create: times spent at the skatepark, my loud neighbors, late nights at Town Topic, or just being a Black man in the Midwest.”
All that he’s learned — on his own, from the Watsons, from Houston and Kansas City — he now shares with the next generation of aspiring musicians. Moore has taught at institutions such as the University of Kansas and Metropolitan Community College. He has also released a trio of albums and launched Tribe Studios, an incubator for established, professional musicians that also serves as a rehearsal/production space. Since opening the doors, he’s worked with the likes of Marcus Lewis, Chantae Cann and Crystal Rose, as well as organizations such as New York University and Arts Tech.
“Since COVID-19, our focus has been more on the streaming, education and the recording side as no one is touring right now,” he said. “We are here to meet artists where they are with anything they might need. We have a vintage rhythm section backline, while I kept a DIY vibe to the setup to give our clients complete control. You can run your rig from anywhere in the live room as well as the engineering room. After being in KC for 10 years, I felt we needed something for us. Something independent with no strings attached. It's been a joy to create and work with others in the community.”
“I think my music is much like riding a BMX bike downhill with no brakes, jumping and carving around the bumps and transitions,” he said. “I’m known to switch it up on ya, or ride you off a huge cliff. You just have to trust the course. This hill is fun, and every [listen] challenges a new path.” –Eddie Moore
His teaching, Tribe Studios and his own music has cemented his legacy in Kansas City. And as he’s helped shape the scene, he’s watched it evolve and taken note of what more can be done to amplify the voices of Black musicians. He can see progress, noting the success of local artists like Kadesh Flow, Calvin Arsenia and Kemet Coleman.
It’s a start for future success, but ultimately, he said, “Black artists will have proper amplification when the community accepts all Black art.” When asked what Kansas City can do to amplify Black jazz artists, Moore replied, “Don’t judge it, just appreciate it, feed it and nurture it. Hey, you never know, in five years you might look up and have another renaissance.”
This is an expanded version of an article originally published in the February 2021 Kansas City PBS monthly member guide. Tribe Studios was mistakenly referred to as an incubator for “up and coming musicians,” rather than “established, professional musicians.” We regret and apologize for the error.