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Joe Mooney's music has enjoyed something of a rediscovery during the last few years with virtually all his recordings now available. Lush Life (Atlantic, mid-50's) came out a couple of years ago on Koch. Last year the English HEP label reissued his late 40's Decca sessions together with some air checks on a couple of wonderful CD's. This release combines his last two records (Columbia, mid-60's). Personally I wouldn't want to do without any of them.
As a performer Mooney was equal parts vocalist and keyboard player: organ, accordion, and piano in order of preference. He can be seen as part of a tradition that includes Bob Dorough, Blossom Dearie, and the contemporaneous King Cole Trio.
On the first twelve cuts ( The Happiness of ... ) Mooney is backed by rhythm and reeds arranged by Mundell Lowe. The other tunes are by Mooney's classic quartet (with reed, guitar, and bass) plus vibes and whispering drums, both superfluous. Dodgion (flute) and Lowe get a few short solos, but the accompanying musicians mostly stay in the background, professionally reading parts. Lowe's uncluttered reed arrangements with their swinging riffs and clarinet voicings complement the vocals and organ breaks effectively. Mooney's hip lines behind himself especially on organ are always on target.
Mooney's music is notable for humor, swing, good spirits, and surprise. His timing is unmatched. The repertoire here is decent pop tunes of the 60's mixed with earlier vintage standards. Whatever the tune he had a knack for making it his. He overcame trite lyrics and somehow gave them meaning. He would tactfully alter a note here or there, sometimes change words, sometimes shift accents. He would invariably end up with something completely natural sounding and way beyond the original. The ususally stagy, unconvincing "What Kind of Fool Am I" actually makes sense at a bright tempo sung rhetorically with the Mooney touch. He treats Johnny Mandel's "Emily" conversationally over a Latin rhythm with pauses (unnoticeable) The sound is 60's stereo, and it is just fine.
Track Listing: 1. Wait Till You See Her 2. But Beautiful, 3. The Second Time Around, 4. I Wish You Love, 5. Call Me Irresponsible, 6. Nobody Else But Me, 7. Once Upon A Summertime, 8. Lollipops And Roses, 9. This Is All I Ask, 10. What Kind Of Fool Am I, 11. Days Of Wine And Roses, 12. The Good Life, 13. Cute, 14. When I Fall In Love, 15. Emily, 16. You Irritate Me So, 17. I Wonder What Became Of Me, 18. Honeysuckle Rose, 19. Happiness Is You, 20. She's Not For You, 21. I Wanna Be Around, 22. When The World Is At Rest, 23. When Sunny Gets Blue, 24. This Is The Life
Personnel: Joe Mooney - vocal, organ, accordion, piano, arranger; Mundell Lowe - arranger, guitar; Gene Allen, Al Klink, Walt Levinsky, Phil Bodner, Andy Fitzgerald, Don Ashworth, Leon Cohen, Jerry Dodgion - reeds; Gary Burton, Phil Kraus, Joe Venuto - vibes; Barry Galbraith - guitar; George Duvivier - bass; Eddie Shaughnessy - drums.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.