Ray Nance

Body and Soul

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This is a very unusual date by Ray Nance, as he sticks exclusively to violin with an occasional vocal. Accompanied by either Jaki Byard or Roland Hanna on piano, the shifting supporting cast also includes guitarists Tiny Grimes and Tommy Lucas, and tenor saxophonist Brew Moore. Nance swings like mad through "Get Happy" with some hot licks from Grimes and Lucas, and delivers a poignant "Body and Soul" in a duet with Hanna. Some of the pop tunes from the 1960s fare less well, especially the rather monotonous "Sunny" and an uninspired arrangement of the gospel tune "Oh Happy Day." The two tracks from the Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn songbook are the album's highlights. "Guitar Amour" (which strangely omitted guitar in the many renditions of it by Ellington) has a gypsy flavor. But the masterpiece of this long unavailable LP is Nance's dirge-like duet with Hanna of "Take the 'A' Train" (which Nance had earlier performed at Strayhorn's memorial service); it is difficult not to be moved by this emotional arrangement, which contrasts starkly with typical recordings of it.

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