What a perfect name: James Moody. His playing has that fire and fluency honed in the bebop and post-bop eras, but there is also a haunting sound that tells the listener that his music is about feeling as much as it is about musical notation.
The self-titled Argo session, bracketed by two booting blues, features Moody on all his horns: tenor and alto saxophones and flute. Released only two years after his breakthrough Last Train from Overbrook, the work recorded soon after his release from the then-famous mental facility, Moody is in tip-top form. Also notable is the warm-toned modernist Johnny Coles on trumpet. Musa Kaleem, a hardly known baritone saxophonist, turns in a jumping solo on Clifford Brown's classic "Daahoud, chased by the horns, closely voiced; he preaches with authority on the blues "R.B.Q.
The small band settings are typical of this phase of Moody's career. Ray Charles also worked well in this format in his recordings from the same era. It's a sound that deserves a reprise, albeit dressed in modern style.
Trombonist/composer/arranger Tom McIntosh figures prominently in both these recordings. He and Moody work hand-in-glove and his arrangements set off the soloists to their advantage. McIntosh crafts inventive horn lines and on pianist Gene Kee's jaunty "Cookie, the horns play an exciting counterpoint to the soloists. His compositions are also impressive (the elegiac "With Malice Toward None on the Argo session and "Smack-a-Mac on the Milestone).
Moody and the Brass Figures
Move forward eight years to 1966 and the same format is in play with McIntosh's arrangements for an octet (described as Quartet with "Brass Figures ) that includes two trumpets, trombone and tuba. Moody and the Brass Figures also features three marvelous quartet tracks.
When backed by this non-pariel rhythm section (Kenny Barron, Bob Cranshaw and Mel Lewis), the full range of Moody's improvisatory mastery comes into focus. Heard on tenor throughout the session (except for "Cherokee ), his sound has gained a keening edge that identifies him immediately - even on the double-time flurries he unleashes on "The Moon Was Yellow. His reprise after Barron's beautiful spot brings down the volume but not the emotion.
Among the octet tracks, "Ruby, My Dear stands out. Moody's tenor cry, never overblown, on this reflective reading of Thelonious Monk's lyrical ballad avoids what Orrin Keepnews, the session's co- producer, calls "excessive sentiment. Barron has that rare ability to catch Moody's mood (no pun intended) and also spin his own take on what has come before.
"Love, Where Are You?, "Simplicity and Beauty and "Never Again represent Moody the composer. The latter, recorded again in 1972 for Muse Records with an organ combo, is a soulful excursion through a gospel-tinged ballad where Moody never oversells his point. These songs share a simple strain, what writer Doug Ramsey calls the "call and cry of the South - blue and earthy.
Tracks: Darben the Redd Foxx, Little Girl Blue, Out of Nowhere, Daahoud, Yesterdays, Cookie, With Malice Toward None, R.B.Q.
Personnel: James Moody, flute, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Johhn Coles, trumpet; Tom McIntosh, trombone; Musa Kaleem, baritone saxophone; Gene Kee, piano; John Latham, bass; Clarence Johnston
Moody and the Brass Figures
Tracks: Smack-A-Mac; Bess, You Is My Woman Now; Cherokee; Love, Where Are You?; The Moon Was Yellow; Au Privave; Ruby, My Dear; Simplicity and Beauty; Never Again
Personnel: Moody, tenor saxophone and flute (#3 only); Joe Newman, Jimmy Owens, trumpet, flugelhorn; Snooky Young, trumpet; Jimmy Cleveland, trombone; Don Butterfield, tuba; Kenny Barron, piano; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Mel Lewis, drums