Sunday, May 10, 2015

Listening to Prestige Part 108: James Moody

This is James Moody's second stateside session for Prestige, and again he's surrounded himself with the same group of fellow Dizzy Gillespie big band alumni, including trombonist William "Shep" Shepherd, not to be confused with trombonist Shep Shepherd, one of the composers of "Honky Tonk," and not to be confused with trombonist William Shepherd, contemporary musician and music educator. And while we're at it, not to be confused with "Shep" Sheppard, doowopper of "You're a Thousand Miles Away" and "Daddy's Home." Moody's band also includes sax player and Gillespie alumnus PeeWee Moore, but he's an easy one. He only has to not be confused with the PeeWee Moore who was a sax player and a Dizzy Gillespie alumnus.

The only thing I can say for certain about Jimmy Boyd is that he's not to be confused with the Jimmy Boyd who sang "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." Google references a 2006 club date in Phoenix by Jimmy Boyd, "one of the best jazz pianists around," and I hope it's the same guy. Maybe not. Vocalist George Townes recalls playing with Coltrane in the early days in Philly, and a bass player named Jimmy Boyd, who he says is now out of music and selling real estate in California. And Grant Green died on the way to a 1979 gig at Jimmy Boyd's Breezin' Lounge in Harlem.

I know I have a penchant for obscure digressions, but this is a stretch even for me. But it's all part of the great warp and woof of American music.

1954 is a little late for the golden era of bebop-rhythm and blues crossover, but Moody has spent a few years in Sweden, so maybe no one told him. Or maybe he didn't care. Moody always had the rare ability to satisfy the purists and entertain the young 'uns. So the first cut here features an R&B vocalist, Iona Wade, who cut several sides for fairly obscure R&B labels, but never really broke through. She has a Dinah Washingtonesque style, and she's good.

Moody's also catching the latter part of the bebop meets mambo era, and again he's a welcome addition, playing a Quincy Jones composition.. Drummer Joe Harris, Dizzy alum and house drummer at the Apollo Theater, carries the responsibility of an entire Latin percussion section, and pulls it off.
These tunes were released on two 78s, on an EP, a 10-inch LP, and later as part of a 7000-series LP, Moody's Workshop.

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