James Moody

1950-1951

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April in Paris, 1950. James Moody is making records with a band led by trumpeter Ernie Royal. While two originals by Royal are based on textbook bop themes, Moody's own "Date With Kate" shows greater depth of invention. "Mean to Me" prances at a healthy clip and "Embraceable You" is presented as a slow-dance delicacy. Jumping to July of 1950, Moody leads his own "Boptet" through four remarkable exercises in modernity. Marshall "Red" Allen, who subsequently worked for decades with Sun Ra, is heard in Moody's band playing alto saxophone. These must be Allen's earliest appearances on record. "Delooney" surges ahead with peculiar chords that do in fact slightly resemble what Ra's Arkestra would be playing by 1957. "Real Cool" features the celeste and piano of Raymond Fol and some lovely bass work by Buddy Banks. "In the Anna" is a slow and harmonically altered stroll through "Back Home Again in Indiana." Moody sings a chorus of rapid-fire bop scat on "Voila." After he blows his horn for a bit, several voices sing a background chorus, which continues during a fadeout, that new effect just beginning to occur on records in 1950. Moody's last Parisian session focuses tightly upon his tenor sax backed by apparent Bud Powell devotee Raphael "Raph" Schecroun, Pierre Michelot, and the amazing Kenny "Klook" Clarke, whose solo on "Riffin' and Raphin'" is a pleasure. Hot tracks invigorate, and ballads bring on the coolest of reveries. Moody's fluidic improvisations are always full of pleasant surprises. "St. Louis Blues" gets a modern, sophisticated treatment, slipping with progressive ease into the traditional tango chorus. There are no less than three distinct renditions of "Embraceable You" on this CD. Maybe we're inside a movie and this is the recurring theme song, always returning to assist in the story line's continuity: five months in the life of James Moody. The home stretch takes listeners back to Stockholm. Backed by seven Scandinavians and bolstered by cushy arrangements, Moody delivered six gorgeous performances for the Prestige label. His balladeering is always astonishing. "How Deep Is the Ocean" has the power to reassure. So does "I'll Get By." Each of these little three-minute records should be cherished like a vision of a better world.

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