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The James Moody and Hank Jones Quartet: Our Delight

If you’re looking for instrumental fireworks or can’t abide reflection in your jazz, you’ll find no delight here. But if you value the wisdom of elders and the hard-won grace of decades spent mastering the traditions and nuances of the music, this CD is a joy. It’s also, remarkably given especially Jones’s expansive discography, the first full-fledged studio meeting between two of the prime extant participants in the modern jazz movement reductively called bebop. Pianist Hank Jones, 90, and saxophonist/flutist Moody, 83, make up for, and reflect back on, lost time in this delightful collaboration, empathetically supported by bassist Todd Coolman and drummer Adam Nussbaum.

Although Jones is the senior member, Moody has most sway over the repertoire, dominated by his mentor, Dizzy Gillespie, and an early bop composing icon, Tadd Dameron. The latter’s title tune opens the CD, Moody agile as he spans the range of his tenor sax, tossing in a surprising modulation or arpeggio as a fillip, complemented by a piano solo as sparkling as stardust. Dizzy’s tunes are treated in unhurried fashion as classics given a burnished glow. “Birk’s Works” is a stately march, “Con Alma” slowed down but pitched high, Moody embodying Latin lyricism in his solo even though it eschews a Latin rhythm-so much lyricism that you can just imagine this solo being set to words like his “Moody’s Mood” was from “I’m in the Mood for Love.”

A quote from “Moody’s Mood” insinuates itself into his tenor solo on Dameron’s “Lady Bird,” another bop tune mined here for its melodic assets. Sonny Stitt’s “I Got Rhythm” contrafact, “Eternal Triangle,” is the first of only two real uptempo tracks (the other is Dizzy’s “Woody N’You”) the co-leaders boppishly agile on both. But they are at their most masterful at more heartbeat tempos that bring out the equilibrium of bop and swing, like the Dameron-Basie “Good Bait,” Moody’s own “Darben the Red Foxx” with the composer on flute, or the concluding “Moody’s Groove” by Jimmy Heath, with lyrics and scat from Roberta Gambarini (who must remind both leaders of Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald). Adding a final state of grace is the inclusion of two exquisite duets, “Body and Soul” and “Old Folks,” Moody’s flute on the latter affirming why he is critically valued so highly on that instrument.

Originally Published