After reviewing a number of new albums that feature unusual instruments and/or odd combinations thereof, I was more than ready to critique something ordinary. Let me emphasize, though, that I mean ordinary only in the context of conventional instrumentation. That being said, Our Delight, a new release from the James Moody/Hank Jones Quartet on the IPO label, is extraordinary.
The album also marks a landmark of sorts. Although the two legends have led parallel careers in many respects — with each logging several decades of service at the highest levels of jazz — they've seldom worked together. Pianist Jones is the elder, with beginnings that date back to the era of big bands, while Moody has been showing off his sax and flute talents since the days of bebop.
They've occasionally crossed paths, but Our Delight brings them together for the first time in a project that's entirely devoted to their collaboration. They're backed up very nicely by bassist Todd Coolman and drummer Adam Nussbaum, both of whom occasionally shine through, but for the most part the two stars here are just that — stars. Moody and Jones sound amazing, exhibiting little evidence that the advance of time has eroded their skills.
If you're not convinced, listen to Moody's smooth sax solos on the jazz standard, "Body and Soul," or witness his mellifluous tones on "Soul Trane." Both pieces speak directly to his history in early jazz and he doesn't disappoint as he pays tribute to many of the icons he once played alongside. He does the same with Sonny Stitt's "Eternal Triangle," one of the best tracks on the album.
Jones is equally impressive, although in a subtler manner more akin to his style. With his keyboarding, he perfectly complements Moody's strong presence while making an occasional statement of his own. Especially noteworthy is his work on the Latin-flavored "Con Alma" and "Birk's Works," a Dizzy Gillespie composition.
While Moody is mostly heard on tenor sax, he does bring out the flute once in a while, as on his own "Darben the Red Foxx." As well, he and Jones even make room on the album for a spot or two of scat-singing from vocalist Roberta Gambarini.
Overall, Our Delight is well worth the listen and makes for a fine collection of timeless jazz.