This week the unsinkable James Moody makes Chicago the first stop on a summer tour celebrating his newly released Young at Heart (Warner Brothers), a collection of standards set against simpatico big-band and small-group backdrops, with relatively short solos long on listenability. The CD serves to remind us that Moody can handle this kind of thing just fine–even though his career rests on a considerably more venturesome base. Moody got in on the ground floor of bebop, joining Dizzy Gillespie’s pioneering big band at the age of 21 and quickly proving himself one of the most adeptly lyrical of bop tenor saxophonists. Bebop still lies at the root of Moody’s music, but from those roots has emerged a style revolutionary in its own right: Few musicians have done a better job of combining the essence of bop with further harmonic developments, or of adapting the vocabulary and syntax of bop to contemporary concerns. Moody’s often angular melodic contours always sound like bop, but they also always sound new. In addition to his brisk and challenging tenor playing, Moody maintains one of the first, and still one of the most dynamic, flute styles in jazz history, and on alto sax he alternately croons and storms. Never a stranger to Chicago, Moody has been especially visible recently: He starred in the Jazz Institute of Chicago’s Charlie Parker tribute last summer, and he’ll take part in this year’s Jazz Festival re-creation of the Gillespie big band. But this appearance offers him the chance to settle in for more than the occasional contributory solo. As always, Moody’s mood determines the course of any given set, which means you may hear somewhat more of his jovial shenanigans–both verbal and musical–than you really care for. On the other hand, every drop of serious music that falls from his horns makes you wish for ten more like it. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 670-2473.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo of James Moody.