How many people do you know that celebrated their 85th birthday in Carnegie Hall?
James Moody has done an annual show there every year since 1950. The legendary saxophonist, who got his start in Dizzy Gillespie’s bebop big band in 1946, added to the celebration this year with the release of Moody 4B on the IPO label.
Joining Moody on this CD are bass man Todd Coolman, drummer Lewis Nash, and the man the Los Angeles Times lauds as “one of the top jazz pianists in the word,” Kenny Barron. Barron and Moody have worked together frequently over the years.
Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train” gets things started as Barron introduces the song and the melody on piano. Moody steps in and steps up the tempo for an exciting ride on the rails. All four members of the quartet contribute significantly not only with their solos, but also their synergy. These guys work well together and a lesser contribution from any one would have left the others to overpower.
And speaking of moods, Moody and Company put the listener into a dark, smokey nightclub, after hours with someone close in “Polka Dots & Moonbeams.” Tender and romantic are the words that come to mind with a track that you’ll want to hear again and again — with someone you love.
We heard noticeable changes in the sounds and performances of both Paul Desmond and Stan Getz in their twilight years although they were frequently charming rather than distracting. Throughout all nine tracks, Moody (in seemingly excellent health for 85) shows his stamina and his consistently strong yet soulful performance belies his age.
Coolman and Barron bring original compositions to this project with “O.P.Update” and “Nikara’s Song,” respectively. Coolman’s tune is a tribute to another bass man, Oscar Pettiford, and includes a wink to the melody of Duke Ellington‘s “Perdido.” Barron’s contribution was written for his granddaughter and you can sense the emotion in its performance here.
Cole Porter’s “I Love You” gets a south-of-the-border samba treatment and the album closes with “But Not For Me” by George and Ira Gershwin and Warner Chappell. This track once again showcases both the individual talents of the quartet and their teamwork. It’s a fitting conclusion to Moody 4B, which was released on August 25.
(Watercolor image by MaryJo Schwalbach.)