James Moody: Moody 4B (2010)
Each year since 1950, James Moody has played a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York. In 2010, the annual visit will be a little sweeter as Moody celebrates his 85th birthday, with a slice of cake on Seventh Avenue and a concert of greats. No doubt, the sprightly sax (and flute) master behind such classic tunes as "Moody's Mood for Love" is still playing strong. Moody 4A (IPO, 2009) featured a killer quartet with longtime partner in crime, pianist Kenny Barron, as well as the excellent pairing of drummer Lewis Nash and bassist Todd Coolman. The follow-up, Moody 4B, was recorded a day later and maintains the same mix of well-chosen standards, one or two originals, and a healthy dose of good swing by the best in the business.
The album opens with a touch of solo ragtime from Barron, before the band launches into a cooking tempo with Moody at the helm of "Take the 'A' Train." His solo alludes to bebop past, before giving way to Barron's inspired piano solo. The equally inspired choice of "Polka Dots & Moonbeams" provides the requisite ballad to pluck at heartstrings, with lush tenor and piano playing a duo chorus before bass and drums enter and pull the tempo up. Nash's brushwork here is particularly excellent, and the tasteful chemistry generated by the rhythm section make the Latin-infused grooves on "Speak Low" and "I Love You" dig deep.
Moody sounds as good as ever. His tenor is husky and lilting in the low register, giving way to the occasional bluesy exultation up high. It often has the tender smoothness of an organ, a warm hum with very little vibrato, and the quartet wraps tight around this sound and style.
Standards are again the bread and butter, with the notable exceptions of Barron's "Nikara's Song" and Coolman's "O.P. Update," both of which are sweet and catchy enough to fit seamlessly into the program. Familiar bop melodies, like Tadd Dameron's "Hot House" and Benny Golson's "Along Came Betty" serve as highlights. The former is eased down from the high haste of Charlie Parker's days, into a slow-churned swingfest, with each member of the quartet trotting out his best stuff. Nevertheless, Barron's solo would be worth most piano students' while to transcribe for its splendid melodic development.
To top it all off, the package comes with a full-length sampler disc culled from other recent IPO label releases. With selections from Sir Roland Hanna, Eddie Daniels, Benny Golson, Roger Kellaway, Stefon Harris, and the great Hank Jones, these tracks alone might be worth the price of admission. Yet there's much more. As on 4A, the quartet digs into the stuffing of cool, with an easy chemistry happening between the band as they tackle nine beautiful, classic melodies. This music simply sounds like good jazz should.
Track Listing: Take the A Train; Hot House; Speak Low; Polka Dots & Moonbeams; I Love You; O.P. Update; Nikara's Song; Along Came Betty; But Not For Me.
Personnel: James Moody: tenor saxophone; Kenny Barron: piano; Todd Coolman: bass; Lewis Nash: drums.