Keeper of the Flame
British tenor saxophonist Danny Moss is the real deal, an up-from-the-heels wailer whose swinging declamations remind me of such consummate titans as Sonny Rollins and Zoot Sims. From the opening "Three Little Words," a rollicking romp a la Rollins, to the curtain-closing "Small Fry," it's a magic carpet ride through a dozen-plus standards guaranteed to leave one smiling and happy to be taking nutrition.
Moss, in the manner of swing-bop masters like Dexter Gordon, paints with a bold brush. On the loping "When Your Lover Has Gone," while inside the groove, he's also an astute observer of his ongoing work able to comment on proceedings with wry asides and pungent quotes from the canon of bop. As a balladeer, his earthy sound and palpitating vibrato inform his commentaries with a wisdom at once worldly and yet also appreciative of the miraculousness of the moment. For samples, check the burnished vibrancy of his limnings of "Nancy (With the Laughing Face)" and the smoldering "Where Or When" or "Cry Me a River."
Throughout, the amiable tenorist receives hand-in-glove support from the trio of pianist John Pearce, bassist Len Skeat and drummer Charly Antolini, whose in-the-pocket backings simmer and steam. As the music casts its spell, it soon becomes clear why Moss was a favorite of stalwarts Maynard Ferguson, Tony Bennett, Buddy Rich and Louis Armstrong. Now, in this heartfelt date, the spotlight shines on the venerable Moss who connects with both body and soul.