Jazz CD Reviews

James Moody – 4A – IPO

The master at work.

Published on September 17, 2009

James Moody – 4A – IPO

James Moody – 4A – IPO C1016, 57:38 ****: [Distrib. by Allegro]

(James Moody, tenor sax; Kenny Barron, piano; Todd Coolman, bass; Lewis Nash, drums)

There are so few of the true jazz masters left – those that began their careers in the 1940s and endured and prospered through swing, bebop, cool, hard bop, fusion, and into contemporary jazz genres. You can probably count them on your fingers and toes and be done. Many are pianists, who do not have to rely on their wind power. Those that play trumpet, trombone, and the baritone sax are the real rarities as their lungs begin to give out due to a lifetime of travel and playing in smoke-filled clubs. Veterans of the true big band era are winding down, such as Snooky Young and Clark Terry.

But we still have James Moody. James was front and center in the Gillespie band of the 1940s. He followed the exodus to Europe and returned stateside in the 50s, giving us the inimitable Moody’s Mood for Love, made extra special by the lyrics added by Eddie Jefferson. Moody has continued to charm us with his wit and storytelling. His flute playing ranks up there with Frank Wess, another octogenarian that still graces our jazz world.

At age 84, James Moody is back with a new recording on IPO, following last year’s IPO issue Our Delight, where he shared the stage with the national treasure, pianist Hank Jones, who is still going strong into his 90s. For 4A James is paired with his long time bassist, Todd Coolman. Completing the dream rhythm section are the masterful pianist Kenny Barron and drummer supreme, Lewis Nash. Their repertoire is first rate with all classic tunes well known to jazz fans, as well as the addition of Kenny Barron’s Voyage.

Secret Love opens 4A with Moody and Lewis Nash leading the way. Moody’s tone is silky smooth, playful, and mellow as aged scotch, but still with a bebop bite. Monk’s ‘Round Midnight gives James a chance to emote on his own before Barron enters with the melody that true jazz fans know so well. Nash’s stick work and Coolman’s sensitive bass playing show that played well, you never tire of hearing a jazz standard. The same can be said for Stella by Starlight, East of the Sun, and Bye Bye Blackbird. It is not a case of a jazz legend resting on his laurels, but rather masters of their craft adding little new touches, and interacting flawlessly. No showmanship – each has a job and interacts as a team – no need for egos here.

4A is four veterans sharing for nearly an hour  their greatness for a jazz public, who knows that it is uncertain that we will have new generations of jazz musicians as dedicated to their craft as to play for over half a century, and still be able to bring their “4A” game.

TrackList: Secret Love, Voyage, ‘Round Midnight, Without a Song, Stella by Starlight, East of the Sun, Stablemates, Bye Bye Blackbird

– Jeff Krow

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