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James Moody: Moody Plays Mancini

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James Moody continues his relationship with Warners in a tributary mode. This time the subject is the large and impressive body of work Henry Mancini left for us to learn. Working on tenor, alto and soprano saxes, flute, and in his inimitable vocal mode for two tracks, Moody once again delivers the goods. Keyboardist Gil Goldstein has crafted very complementary settings of Mancini’s melodies, which the leader and his cohorts-bassist Todd Coolman and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington-address with great warmth and depth of feeling.

From the familiar tongue-in-cheek foreboding opening chords of “The Pink Panther,” through Moody’s lovely vocal reading of “Moon River,” and the Eastern landscapes Goldstein charted for “Charade,” this is indeed a successful treatment of Mancini. Henry was not without his cornball moments, as with the silly “I Love You And Don’t You Forget It,” which the hopeless romantic Moody vocally struggles through mightily and with a straight face, but on the whole Mancini’s oeuvre stands up well for Moody the master improviser.