James Moody was a modernist. Even going so far as to describe one of his pioneering bop-grounded groups under that moniker his sound on saxophone was always concerned with realizing the cursive capabilities of the instrument. Realizing the growing audience for the still relatively new music overseas Moody did what many of his contemporaries would do in later decades. Jumping ship for the continent, he settled in Sweden for an extended sabbatical. His life their was one of comparative luxury and he participated in numerous collaborations with a corps of young Swedes enamored of his style. Prestige Records also recognized the fortitude in Moody’s decision for a sojourn abroad and helped ensure that their were recording crews on hand to document the numerous blowing sessions the saxophonist found himself embroiled in.
Culled from six separate sessions these twenty-four tracks were originally released in Sweden as 78’s on the Metronome imprint and later reissued in the late 60s on LPs by Prestige. As a result of their shellac origins many of the tracks suffer in fidelity, though the remastering team at Fantasy has done a reasonable job in cleaning up most of the sonic blemishes. As is to be expected given his exalted status Moody takes the lion’s share of solo space on the majority of pieces, but there are instances where several of the All-Stars also get to show their improvisational mettle. “Indiana” is one such notable exception and features capable solos from Linde, Swanerud and Berg alongside Moody’s customary high-octane blowing. Gullin also proves himself a proficient baritone technician on later tracks.
The groups featured range in size from quartet to octet and predominately focus on standard swing fare with Moody contributing a handful of compositions scattered across the sessions. Moody finds the time and space to alternate between tenor and alto to great effect and his numerous solos invite close and enthusiastic listening. The only questionable performances come towards the disc’s midsection and find the saxophonist in the company of a poorly recorded string-section and harp. The resulting orchestral arrangements are usually saccharine in conception, but Moody tries to make the most of the maudlin backdrop and crafts some suitably laconic solo statements. Overall this disc is an excellent collection of Moody in his prime years as well as an enlightening record of one of the earlier American-European jazz collaborations.