Down Beat (p.86) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]hese wizards exhibit an endlessly fascinating way with improvising close enough to the tune to reference the material while taking it outside to the point of stimulating the listener's imaginations and enhancing the composition."
JazzTimes (p.90) - "[I]f 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."
James Moody (Sax): James Moody (flute, tenor saxophone); Hank Jones (piano); Todd Coolman (bass instrument); Adam Nussbaum (drums, drum).
The combination of James Moody and Hank Jones, excepting a few minor instances, has not been documented since the 1963 Argo LP Great Day. So this match-up of two jazz giants, with a collective experience of some 170 years at the time of this recording, is long overdue and exceedingly welcome. Concentrating on the music of Dizzy Gillespie and Tadd Dameron, these living legends of mainstream bop and hard bop turn this stack of standards and a handful of originals into a refined, relaxed and easygoing program of pleasing and accessible tunes. Every cut sports excellent solos, unforced refrains, and, as the title suggests, a delightful repertoire. Moody's tenor has never sounded better, while the ever elegant Jones supports the band with the ultimate in supple subtleties. Bassist Todd Coolman (who also wrote the insightful liner notes) turns in a usually reliable and steady performance, while the great but still unsung drummer Adam Nussbaum displays a restraint and high level of taste that shows both of their unwavering respect for the icons they are backing.
Of the inventive Dameron's contributions, the title track rolls along easily as cleanly played by these experts. "Lady Bird" is comfy, melodic, and groovy featuring Coolman's seemingly effortless and laudable solo, while the piquant theme of "Good Bait" and the whispered vibrato elements of Moody's tenor during the long ballad "Soul 'Trane" sets them apart from the original versions. The tunes from Gillespie's book-like "Birk's Works" and "Con Alma" are calm and unhurried, the latter with an expected calypso beat professionally injected by Nussbaum, and doing the same for "Woody 'n' You," popping and flailing bopping accents at will. Off the path of Dameron and Gillespie, Sonny Stitt's "Eternal Triangle" remains the perfect lean and fluid bop vehicle in the hands of masters, on flute Moody's "Darben the Red Foxx" extracts a spiky elfin blues theme, switching up phrasings to keep things interesting, and rising star vocalist Roberta Gambarini scats à la Ella Fitzgerald and soars like Sarah Vaughan on the Jimmy Heath evergreen "Moody's Groove." It's impossible to deem anything on this marvelous recording as less than truly classic, impeccably performed, simpatico above and beyond the call, and charmingly rendered. You'll have no issues adding this fine and historic recording to your modern straight-ahead jazz collection. ~ Michael G. Nastos