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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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IPO Recordings IPO 1016




1. Secret Love
2. Voyage
3. 'Round Midnight
4. Without a Song
5. Stella by Starlight
6. East of the Sun
7. Stablemates
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 rank.

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.

Tony Augarde 

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