James Moody

1949-1950

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Whether you think you're already hip to James Moody, or if you aren't hip to him at all, be sure and check this stuff out! It's rare, it's beautiful and the solos are extraordinary. What you have here is essentially Moody's European tour journal. This phonographic diary takes us through Stockholm towards the end of 1949 and then to Paris in February and April of 1950. Moody is hanging with the French and the Swedes. They have been carefully studying the twists and turns of American bop. The arrangements are intricate and very contemporary. Don't worry about the goofy titles. "Three Bop Mice" and "Flight of the Bopple Bee" are actually fine pieces of work, hot and busy, composed and executed by this formidable sax and flute man from Georgia who got his start working with Dizzy Gillespie. Much of what we know about Moody comes from a stream of American records issued and reissued over a span of more than 50 years. His early European recordings are of inestimable value in their own light and as context for the rest of his work. "Three Bop Mice" seems to refer to the front line of three wicked tenor saxophones. Good thing this jam runs for nearly six minutes! It gives the guys kicking room. When Moody approaches a ballad, the results are often stunning. "Laura" is exquisite and "Body and Soul" pulsates with Moody's personal blend of languid urgency. "I'm in the Mood for Love" is the divine original take of a set of variations that would help to spawn the entire vocalese tradition, bearing forever the altered title "Moody's Mood for Love." Some will involuntarily detect echo-premonitions of Eddie Jefferson as the improvisations effortlessly unwind. Who would have guessed that the lovely upper register chorus, which Eddie would always sing in a disarming falsetto, was originally devised by the Swedish pianist Thore Swanerud? "Lester Leaps In" turns out to be the blueprint for Jefferson's wonderful vocalese outing "I Got The Blues." He obviously owned each of these Swedish records and learned them by heart. A pity he didn't get a chance to devise note-for-note lyrics to Moody's improvisations on "Indiana" "Dexterious" and "Good Bait," as these too are brilliant. The next jaw-dropper is "Blue and Moody," which proves to be the record that Eddie Jefferson turned into "Birdland Story," that exciting number heard on the 1956 Flute 'N the Blues album. This one CD holds the key to so many of James Moody's greatest records. Two 1950 Parisian sessions led by pianist Jack Dieval explore unusual harmonic realms, presenting ideas and tonalities that would take root over the next ten years. This is progressive music, unusually advanced for its day. Annie Ross sings in her most bizarre, pleasantly disorienting manner during "Le Vent Vert." Next, the Ernie Royal All-Stars punch out a five-minute "Period Suite." Russell Procope blossoms during a six-and-a-half-minute excursion through "Perdido," neatly bisected during Pierre Michelot's bass solo. Everybody ought to own a copy of this glorious disc. It is a glowing emerald deeply set in the precious lapidary of James Moody's music, surely some of the greatest music the world will ever hear.

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