Saturday, October 19, 2013

Moody's Gamut

James Moody was one of the first modernists to seriously take up the flute and he proved to be as facile on that instrument as he was on tenor and alto. Bob Parent photo

I picked this record up many years ago in a basement used record shop in Hyde Park when I was living in Chicago. I got it along with a pile of Andrew White's self-produced LPs. Needless to say, I've listened more often to this James Moody effort than to any of those sides by the DC saxophonist.

Mr. Moody's output was prodigious, and this album is just one of scores he produced in the 1960s. But I'm including it here because it's so darn good. Recorded in 1964, it was one of two Moody did for for the independent Sceptor label, the one that featured the immortal Thad Jones. The album unfortunately fell through the critical cracks and disappeared from the label's soul-and-pop catalog after only a few years. But "Running the Gamut" is in the Gems archive and I think it's definitely worth an upload.

Trumpet master Thad Jones during a Blue Note recording
date, about a decade earlier. Francis Wolff photo
James Moody started out playing in Dizzy Gillespie's big band and proved to be such a powerhouse soloist that he soon was recording on his own for Blue Note. A trip to Sweden and an incidental 1949 date with local musicians resulted in a variation on "I'm in the Mood for Love" that became a smash hit when King Pleasure re-recorded it in '52 with lyrics for Prestige. After that, Moody was pretty much pigeon-holed as soloist single, fronting nameless groups for studio dates in a seemingly never-ending quest for a follow-up to "Mood." It was only in the late '50s, after Moody emerged from rehab due to alcoholism, that he began to find his own voice.

This date comes after James' long stint with the Chess/Argo label, and it places him in a post-hard bop, New York-style setting. Thad Jones had just left Basie and was about to launch his monster big band with Mel Lewis, and he's in top form here. Patti Bown is the pianist, and she's another of those journeyman jazz players who recorded frequently and exhibited real ability but never got much notice. I met her once in later years when she was living in the Westbeth Houses on Bethune St. in Manhattan and she was a big woman with an impressive, quiet presence. On "Gamut" she struggles with a sour-sounding piano and eventually comes up the winner. Youngsters Reggie Workman and Tootie Heath round out the section, providing the date with its progressive edge.

Ms. Bown, in a studio shot that was featured on the
cover of the only recording under her own name,
"Patti Bown Plays Big Piano," on Columbia.
Of the tunes, most are boppish, thoroughly modern sounding vehicles with lots of soloing space for the stars. One is entirely different – "If You Grin." A funk vamp, it features Patti Bown on organ, creating a sort of soul drone. To my ears, the tune anticipates what Miles would be doing half a decade later. A vocalist – a "thrush from Philly," as the liner notes put it – adds color to the ballad "Paint the Town Red." Marie Volpe (or Volpee – the record has it both ways) is unknown to me, but she has a nice head voice with a quivering vibrato. She also appeared on Moody's second Scepter release and then dropped out of sight.

The opening selection, "Buster's Last Stand," breaks down at the end, with the band bursting into laughter and Tootie tossing his sticks on the floor (clearly audible). What's so funny? Your guess is as good as mine, but the legendary Chicago DJ Dick Buckley use to claim it was because the band could no longer stand the out-of-tune piano that Bown was comping on. Give a listen and see what you think.

As always, this gem comes straight from the original vinyl and required no cleaning at all.

Running the Gamut
James Moody
Scepter S 525
James Moody, ts, fl, as; Thad Jones, tp; Patti Bown, p;
Reggie Workman, b; Albert Heath, d; Marie Volpe, v*.
August 1, 4, 1964, New York, NY

1. Buster’s Last Stand (Thad Jones)
2. Paint the Town Red
3. Em Prean Shore (Dennis Sandole)
4. Capers (Tom MacIntosh)
5. If You Grin (You’re In)
6. The Wayward Plaint (Dennis Sandole)
7. Figurine (Dennis Sandole)

Find it here:


  1. New to me and excited to give it a spin. Thank you.

  2. Mr. Dann,
    Glad to discover your amazing blog. Would you mind to re-upload this one some time maybe? Many many thanks!

  3. This is a Moody LP I do not have, as is true for much of your fine posts. On a technical note, the link that is embedded on the page does not have the very last digit active, so it takes you not to the download but to the Mediafire home page instead. The link works if you copy it fully and paste it in. Just an fyi. Thanks again for all you do!