Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

373

Ray Nance: Body and Soul

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

Sign in to view read count
Ray Nance recorded Body and Soul, his first album as a leader, in May 1969, almost thirty years after he took over Cootie Williams' trumpet chair in the Duke Ellington orchestra, but only about two years after Billy Strayhorn's death in May 1967, and mere days after Coleman Hawkins' in May 1969. Nance performed "Take the 'A' Train" at Strayhorn's funeral, and "Body and Soul" at Hawk's. Both threnodies are included here as duets with pianist Sir Roland Hanna. Nowhere is Nance's facile virtuosity more beautifully on display, bringing to mind his sublime violin solo on the Ellington band's "Blue Serge" from 1941.

The funeral tributes may be the highlights of the record, but the remainder offers many other delights. In Stanley Dance's engaging original liner notes, Nance reminisces about the schools of violin playing in early jazz, contrasting Eddie South's classicist style with Stuff Smith's wilder swing. An admirer of Smith, Nance nevertheless leaned toward South, as is evident in the delicacy and refinement of his approach on this record. As well as looking back in the history of jazz violin, Body and Soul points forward: the wistful cascading theme of "Jolie Janice" is surely the model for violinist Billy Bang's "The Shift Below," from his Fire From Within (Soul Note, 1984).

Nance himself quotes the bop classic "Wee" (aka "Allen's Alley") midway through "Mimi," signaling his comfort with post-big band era material. Indeed, this comfort sometimes veers toward kitsch. The reading here of the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night," for example, proves conclusively that a rock 'n' roll beat in a jazz combo does not, by itself, suffice to create fusion—or even decent jazz. (Bobby Hebb's "Sunny" fares slightly better.)

Body and Soul features not only Roland Hanna (not yet knighted by the President of Liberia at this time, to the best of my knowledge), but also Jaki Byard. (They don't play on the same cuts.) One of the record's few disappointments is that it squanders the presence of not one but two of the best piano improvisers in post-Ellington jazz. With the exception of Hanna's peerless accompaniment on the funeral duos mentioned above, and some all-too-brief solos by Byard (especially on "She's Funny That Way"), the pianists are kind of lost in the unconventional two-guitarist rhythm section. One of those guitarists is Tiny Grimes (yes, the same Tiny Grimes under whose aegis Charlie Parker made his recording début); the other is Tommy Lucas, and they trade off clean solos that help evoke the classic Django-Grappelli sound.

It is a jazz axiom that Duke's sidemen never achieved, as solo performers, the heights they routinely scaled within the Ellington orchestra. Body and Soul doesn't challenge this conventional wisdom, but its best moments certainly merit inclusion among the finest of the solo efforts of Ellington's collaborators.

Track Listing: Take the "A" Train; Get Happy; Sunny; Body and Soul; Mimi; A Hard Day's Night; Oh Happy Day; Stardust; She's Funny That Way; Jolie Janice; Guitar Amour; Tranquility.

Personnel: Ray Nance: violin, vocal; Tiny Grimes: guitar; Tommy Lucas: guitar; Jaki Byard: piano; Carl Pruitt: bass; Steve Little: drums; Brew Moore: tenor saxophone; Roland Hanna: piano, organ.

Title: Body and Soul | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Mighty Quinn Productions

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Body And Soul
Abracadabra Music
1970
buy
A Flower Is A...
Abracadabra Music
0
buy
Quartet & Sextet
Abracadabra Music
0
buy
Huffin' 'N' Puffin'
Abracadabra Music
0
buy

More Articles

Read Satoko Fujii Solo CD/LP/Track Review Satoko Fujii Solo
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 17, 2018
Read when the shade is stretched CD/LP/Track Review when the shade is stretched
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 17, 2018
Read The Influencing Machine CD/LP/Track Review The Influencing Machine
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 17, 2018
Read Presence CD/LP/Track Review Presence
by Geannine Reid
Published: January 17, 2018
Read Flaneur CD/LP/Track Review Flaneur
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: January 16, 2018
Read D'Agala CD/LP/Track Review D'Agala
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 16, 2018
Read "Sermon Organ Combo" CD/LP/Track Review Sermon Organ Combo
by Jerome Wilson
Published: September 29, 2017
Read "First Light" CD/LP/Track Review First Light
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 18, 2017
Read "Eternal Life" CD/LP/Track Review Eternal Life
by Jerome Wilson
Published: December 14, 2017
Read "NJO 40" CD/LP/Track Review NJO 40
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 1, 2017
Read "The Invariant" CD/LP/Track Review The Invariant
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Moments Captured" CD/LP/Track Review Moments Captured
by Andrew Luhn
Published: May 12, 2017