In 2010, it’s still a tremendous pleasure to hear the great James Moody, a wonderful saxophonist with impeccable control, confidence and instrumental mastery. He sticks to tenor sax on Moody 4B, which is, expectedly and obviously, a continuation of last year’s Moody 4A. Each contains a program mixing standards with an original or two supplied either by a band member (featured pianist Kenny Barron’s “Nikara’s Song” and bassist Todd Coolman’s “O.P. Update”) or a Moody contemporary (Benny Golson’s “Along Came Betty”). There is a fluid, swinging ease with which the quartet moves through each number, Moody delivering broad, soulful and impressive solos without any gimmicks or tricks, just mellow notes, a thick tone and expressive lines and statements on “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Speak Low” or “But Not for Me.”
Barron doesn’t dare overplay, either; everything he supplies, whether within the arrangement, as part of the rhythm section or during his own solos, is equally precise and ideal for each situation. Coolman excels on “O.P. Update,” a smart tribute to Oscar Pettiford, while drummer Lewis Nash offers easy, inviting rhythms when needed (“I Love You,” “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”) and accelerates both the pace and the intensity on other occasions (“Along Came Betty,” “Nikara’s Song”).
Simply put, Moody’s mighty saxophone work hasn’t lost its luster, and he shows that Sonny Rollins isn’t the only one in his 80s with plenty left to say.