1. Secret Love
3. 'Round Midnight
4. Without a Song
5. Stella by Starlight
6. East of the Sun
8. Bye Bye Blackbird
James Moody - Tenor sax
Kenny Barron - Piano
Todd Coolman - Bass
Lewis Nash - Drums
Having just reviewed
an album by Dizzy Gillespie, it seems fitting that I should now
turn to a CD by James Moody, who was Gillespie's partner-in-jazz (one
might even say Dizzy's "straight man") for so many years.
Moody was aged 83 when this album was recorded on two days in July
2008 and he has lost none of his power as a saxophonist of the first
The repertoire may look rather well-worn but James refreshes the
tunes with his melodic fluency and pianist Kenny Barron provides impeccable
support with his judicious accompaniments and well-constructed solos.
Barron's piano style has remarkable clarity, and it is worth playing
the album a second time to concentrate on hearing his delicious playing.
Secret Love starts with an unusual marching rhythm but it
works just fine, despite conjuring up the image of Doris Day singing
the Jazz Messengers' Blues March! James Moody proves that he
can squeal in the upper register and play speedy sequences of notes
in Coltrane style, but he never forgets to improvise melodiously on
every tune. And he hasn't lost his sense of humour: inserting some
jokey bebop quotes into the final statement of the theme. This track
also illustrates the sympathetic playing of bassist Todd Coolman and
drummer Lewis Nash. Nash's drum solo manages miraculously to suggest
the tune: he does it again in 'Round Midnight.
Moody's choice of Without a Song may remind the listener of
Sonny Rollins, in taking a tune that is not exactly a jazz standard
and turning it into one. Stella by Starlight is lifted out
of the ordinary by a Latin-American beat. Another outstanding track
is East of the Sun, a tender duet between Moody and Barron
which sounds anything but hackneyed. Even the perhaps-overfamiliar
Bye Bye Blackbird has new life breathed into it, as Moody adds
a surprising extended ending just when you think the track is finished.
Why is the album entitled 4A? The only hint is in the
sleeve-notes, which say that bassist Todd Coolman calls the two sessions
they did on successive days "Moody's finest effort", adding
"eventually you will also be able to savour 4B".
I hope so, as 4A is eminently an album to savour.