[JPL] Music Review:   The Saxophonist James Moody Evokes Gillespie

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Sun Aug 13 06:55:04 EDT 2006


August 12, 2006
Music Review

The Saxophonist James Moody Evokes Gillespie

³Here¹s a composition written by my father, Dizzy Gillespie,² the
saxophonist James Moody deadpanned at Iridium on Thursday night. The line
got a knowing laugh, not only for its absurdity, but also for the honest
sentiment behind it.

Mr. Moody has never shied from acknowledging his debt to Gillespie, the
brilliant trumpeter and bebop progenitor who was seven years his senior, and
who died more than a decade ago. Their association is well documented: Mr.
Moody, now 81, served a formative stint in the acclaimed Gillespie big band
of the mid-1940¹s, and a longer term with Gillespie¹s quintet through most
of the 1960¹s and beyond.

Among the traits Mr. Moody appears to have inherited from his mentor is a
deceptively casual performance style that balances intellect and humor. His
first set on Thursday, with a working quartet, included moments geared
toward the chin-stroking bebop initiate, as well as ample doses of what
could fairly be described as shtick.

The Gillespie composition ³Con Alma² was a serious matter, as indicated by
the pianist Renee Rosnes in an elaborate, fluttering introduction. Mr.
Moody, soloing over the song¹s distinctive harmonic progression,
interspersed boppish eighth-note lines and looser blues-based riffs. His
rhythmic feel was unhurried but precise, against the loosely propulsive
drumming of Adam Nussbaum.

³Au Privave,² by Gillespie¹s original sparring partner, Charlie Parker, was
similarly straightforward. But Mr. Moody embellished the standard ³Secret
Love² with some winking allusions, including the fanfare to ³Bebop,² a
Gillespie classic, and the old ³shave and a haircut² theme. He dropped a few
more quotations during his improvisation, in typical bebop fashion. The
bassist Todd Coolman engaged in the same ritual in his solo, slipping in a
phrase from ³Moody¹s Mood for Love.²

Perhaps Mr. Coolman was purposely foreshadowing. The next song in the set
was that one, Mr. Moody¹s calling card for more than 50 years. A huge hit
for the singer King Pleasure, ³Moody¹s Mood for Love² has lyrics by Eddie
Jefferson and a melody based on an improvisation by Mr. Moody. And that
description doesn¹t do justice to its convoluted history, which Mr. Moody
has stopped elucidating in his performance.

What he does instead is subject the song to a comic flogging, complete with
throat-clearing and jolts of vocal babble. Mr. Moody has honed his delivery
of ³Moody¹s Mood² into a routine; as usual, he sang the song¹s brief female
part in a splotchy falsetto and tacked on an incongruous rap coda extolling
the virtues of daytime television. He also played up his natural lisp,
exaggerating for effect.

Mr. Moody has developed his own comedic sensibilities, but they still tend
to conjure the image of the man he calls his father. Perhaps
unintentionally, paternity issues resurfaced in the other comic war horse in
the set, a spoof of ³Pennies From Heaven,² again with lyrics by Eddie
Jefferson. Mr. Moody sang the number as ³Benny¹s From Heaven,² with
appropriate drollness. But his solo, on tenor, was a thing of substance.

James Moody performsthrough tomorrow at the Iridium Jazz Club, 1650
Broadway, at 51st Street; (212) 582-2121.

Copyright 2006  The New York Times Company


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