James Moody: Feelin' It Together

Robert Spencer By

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Gary Giddens' liner notes say, "Let us equivocate no more. James Moody is one of the great players in contemporary music." No argument here. From the very first note of "Anthropology," the first track, Feelin' It Together is a remarkable display of Moody's mastery. It's a no-frills quartet date from January, 1973: Moody, pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Larry Ridley, and drummer Freddie Waits. Barron contributes a couple of tunes, "Dreams" and "Morning Glory." They also play the Bird & Diz number already mentioned, "Autumn Leaves," a Jobim tune ("Wave"), and "Kriss Kross" by Red Holloway and Art Hillery.

Nothing earth-shaking there. Yet Moody - or whoever - has chosen the material that shows off this reedman's chops. "Anthropology" is nine minutes of gloriously controlled Parkerian fury: bebop revisited, but in the larger time-spaces of the period. Moody's alto is fleet and flawless. "Dreams" shifts gears entirely to show that Moody could ride an ostinato with the best of the more fashionable players of the day, and wield a flute with delicacy and confidence. Barron switches to electric piano here and turns in a more upbeat solo than Moody's, setting him off nicely.

On "Autumn Leaves," which starts out with a bit of bowed-bass vertigo, Moody switches to tenor. That's right, friends, he's just as accomplished on the larger horn as on the smaller. He takes this oft-played tune at a more frank and cheerful pace than it is usually given-at least after Miles. Barron threatens to steal the show - but the boss is a match for him.

Back to flute for "Wave," yet one might not immediately realize that it's the same instrument as on "Dreams." Here Moody gives it a Don Cherryish wood-flute ethnic sound in a rubato introduction, before massive drum pounding heralds the entry of the bossa-nova. Reminiscent of Shorter on soprano. "Morning Glory" is just as sweet, but less tangy. Moody's tenor here is as expressive and individual as any of the more widely-known masters. Check out also the purity of his tone on the playful and almost unaccompanied introduction to "Kriss Kross" (before the faux harspichord starts!).

Feelin' It Together presents a master reedman at the top of his game. Recommended.

Title: Feelin' It Together | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: 32 Records


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