In 1971, President Nixon imposed national price controls and took the United States off the gold standard, an extreme measure intended to end an ongoing currency war that had destroyed faith in the U.S. dollar. Today we are engaged in a new currency war, and this time the consequences will be far worse than those that confronted Nixon. …
Back in New York after three years spent gigging and recording in Europe, a mature and rejuvenated James Moody resumed the endless North American scuffle to get by as a contemporary jazz musician. Volume five in the Classics James Moody chronology presents 16 rare Mercury recordings made between October 1951 and June 1953, followed by eight Prestige titles from January and April, 1954. The first four tracks feature baritone saxophonist Cecil Payne; high points include the rowdy, bristling "Moody's Home" and "Wiggle Waggle," an R&B rocker that sounds like something right up out of the King record catalog. Beginning with the material recorded on May 21, 1952, Moody is heard leading a group largely composed of players who, like him, had worked in Dizzy Gillespie's big band. Two of these individuals – trumpeter Dave Burns and baritone saxophonist Numa "Pee Wee" Moore – show up regularly in the front line of Moody's excellent recording ensembles between 1952 and 1955.
This keyboardist was putting the "smooth" into "jazz" long before there was a format by that name. Since the mid-70s, Bob James has been one of instrumental music's most consistent purveyors of tunes that hover in the gray area between lighthearted pop and more sophisticated jazz textures. James' approach here is a little like his contribution to the supergroup Fourplay rather than dominate, he's content to jam and be one of the guys. Though his solos stand out, it's almost as if he's a hired gun on a project featuring the best and brightest of this second generation of smooth jazzers. He's farmed out the production tasks to some top studio guys (including musician/artists Paul Brown, Chuck Loeb, Michael Colina, and David McMurray. On the lively, shuffling "Take Me There," he bounces around joyously over Loeb's crisp guitar lines and Kim Waters' smart mix of soprano and alto saxes.
Keyboardist Bob James and acoustic guitarist Earl Klugh struck gold with this session, recently reissued on CD. The formula hasn't changed much in succeeding years. Both Klugh and James are capable musicians; they demonstrated on this collection of light, innocuous melodies and occasionally interesting backbeats a high degree of professionalism. Klugh is a first-rate guitarist whose solos are concise and nicely delivered, but frequently sound thin. James' piano and electric keyboard playing is a puzzling combination of flawlessness and lifelessness.