James Moody: Septet 1951-1955

The saxophonist's early 50s bop and blues recordings for Mercury/Emarcy and Prestige are collected in a three-CD box set

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This comprehensive three-CD box contains all of Moody’s recordings for Mercury/Emarcy and Prestige from October 1951 to 1 December 1955. Each CD plays for approximately one hour and contains music from Moody’s septet, a formation he used throughout these years as a bandleader.

Apart from the first four tracks on CD1 Dave Burns was the trumpet player on every piece. Burns instructed Moody in music and brought him into jazz back in 1943 during their army service. After leaving the military both auditioned for Dizzy Gillespie’s 1940s big band and were well featured in it. Not making any impact with his own first band in 1949 Moody headed for Paris, where he linked up and played with Miles Davis, Max Roach. Later he played with several Swedish musicians when he travelled to Stockholm. When he returned to the USA in 1951, he formed his first septet and thus continued successfully until 1955.

Margie is from his October 1951 band and features him along with John Grimes on trumpet, Cecil Payne on baritone and Chink Williams at the drums. Moody is already well into bebop at this stage as can be heard on his lively alto solo. Until The Real Thing Comes Along finds him in ballad mood on alto. Hey Jim has his friend Babs Gonzales, the original bebop hippie, taking a vocal. Dave Burns contributes a lyrical trumpet segment. Moody is on tenor, showing an original approach already. For Moody’s Theme he switches to alto, as he did throughout these years, playing both instruments regularly. Moody’s septet achieves an impressive big sound, more like a big band on most of these selections. The James Moody Story has Gonzales in full flow, with the septet riffing merrily behind him, and blazing alto from Moody.

That Man O’ Mine moves into R&B territory briefly and features vocalist Iona Wade, a singer with a crackly, bluesy sound who was around for some time but never managed to get a hit song. Moody plays a somewhat exotic tenor solo on Over The Rainbow. If he sounded different from track to track it was probably his desire (a fairly successful one) to please a wide variety of people who bought his records. It is reported that he played more hard-core jazz in clubs at this time.

Moody’s Mood For Blues is introduced by a down-home walking bass solo from John Latham, who was the regular bassist in the septet from 1953 onwards. Moody is on alto and dipping down into deep blue lines. The personnel had shaken down well by this time and most of them, like Latham, Burns and pianist Jimmy Boyd stayed with him until the end. Latham shines particularly on his featured track, Oscar Pettiford’s Blues In The Closet.

The success of Moody’s septet was helped considerably by the arrangers he employed, including Quincy Jones and Benny Golson. There are two gems by Golson, Blue Walk on CD2, and Big Ben on CD3. Moody’s blues chops shine out brightly on Moody’s Blue again and the earlier Moody’s Mood For Blues. Sadly, he thought the critics in jazz magazines did not recognise him or give him credit for the music he played at this time. As this attractive collection demonstrates he played some fine early bop and blues throughout these years, his music enhanced by the bright, inventive trumpet of Dave Burns, another neglected musician who certainly should have received more recognition.

Discography
CD1: Serenade In Blue; Margie; Moody’s Home; Wiggle Waggle; Until The Real Thing Comes Along; Hey Jim; Moody’s Theme; My Ideal; The Bite; Poor Butterfly; My Ideal; St. Louis Blues; The James Moody Story; And Now Moody Speaks; Feeling Low; Wail Bait; N.J.R. (I’m Gone); A Hundred Years From Today; Keeping Up With Jonesy; Workshop (58.00)
CD2: That Man O’ Mine; Over The Rainbow; Jack Raggs; Mambo With Moody; It Might As Well Be Spring – take 1; It Might As Well Be Spring – take 2; Blues In The Closet; Moody’s Mood For Blues; Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen; I Got The Blues; Blue Walk; Faster James; There will Never Be Another you; Disappointed; Hard To Get; Little Ricky (60.01)
CD3: Big Ben; Little John; Show Eyes; And You Called My Name; Jammin’ With James; The Golden Touch; The Nearness Of You; Donkey Serenade; Moody’s Blue Again: The Strut; A Sinner Kissed An Angel; Wail Moody, Wail (60.09)
Moody (as, ts) with various personnel including Dave Burns (t); Numa “Pee Wee” Moore (tb); Argonne Thornton, Jimmy Boyd (p); John Latham (b); Joe Harris (d) Eddie Jefferson, Babs Gonzales, Iona Wade (v). NYC, October 1951 – June 1953. New Jersey, January 1954 – December 1955.
Fresh Sound FSR CD 1146