Eric Dolphy: Body & Soul

A recording that features Eric Dolphy and Charles Mingus in the company of Roy Eldridge and Jo Jones is worth any amount of time it might take to track it down (of course, these days, access to such rare musical encounters are seldom more than a few mouse clicks away, but you get my point). Eldridge was an elder statesman in 1960, yet he still had lots of great playing ahead of him. He opens here with a gritty, emotive improvised chorus on the ballad's meandering chord changes—his style the characteristic bridge between Armstrong and Gillespie, but timeless for all that. Eldridge ends with a double-time break (shared with Mingus), which leads to Dolphy, who doubles the double-time, staying well within the changes for the most part while parsing the beat in ingenious, unpredictable ways. Even at its most outré, Dolphy's style came out of bebop, a fact made most apparent here as he reins in his more extreme impulses. A young Tommy Flanagan plays well if without particular distinction, and Papa Jo Jones swings like only he can. The track's highlight is arguably Eldridge's return chorus at performance's end; he plays as if trying to make the point that fire and inspiration know no stylistic limits. Certainly, they're qualities both he and Dolphy shared in abundance.

July 02, 2009 · 0 comments

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James Moody & Hank Jones: Body and Soul

What do you say when two prolific legends get together and play a jazz standard? I mean really. You can't say it is the best performance they have ever given because you have no idea how many times Moody and Jones have played "Body and Soul" in their combined 173 years on this planet. But I do know this: It would be impossible to find another piano-saxophone duo that could play it with more authority and knowledge than these two wonders.

October 20, 2008 · 0 comments

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John Coltrane: Body and Soul

Coltrane recorded only a few standards when he was with Atlantic Records, and "Body and Soul"—a warhorse for tenor players—had to be among them. But paradoxically it's featured on a record that was only released four years after being recorded, at a time when Coltrane had gone way beyond his style of 1960. In fact, Coltrane doesn't sound too interested by this tune. In his intro, Tyner drags it towards the modal mood his leader increasingly preferred, instead of tackling the complex harmonies. And indeed the only real solo is played by the pianist in the middle of the track. Coltrane merely contents himself with toying around the melody at the beginning and end, in a strangely unconcerned way.

June 26, 2008 · 1 comment

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John Coltrane: Body and Soul



       Coltrane for Kenyon
     (by Michael Symonds)

My dad played Coleman Hawkins’s solo of “Body and Soul” and he knew it back and forth. I’d hear him play those lines all the time when I practiced. Hearing Coltrane’s interpretation, his own perspective through incorporating his different harmonic sequences of “Giant Steps,” developing different ways of modulation through the harmony, which he was doing on a lot of standard songs during that certain period, was beautiful. It taught me a lot about substitution chords, how to incorporate those things as you’re playing through any given tune—and how it related to the blues as well. It’s one of the most soulful, beautiful versions of that tune.

Later on, Dexter Gordon used them. Dexter gave Coltrane a mouthpiece early on. It might have been the mouthpiece that he was using during a certain early period with Miles. Coltrane was one of Dexter’s disciples, along with Bird and others. You could hear Dexter in Coltrane’s playing at a certain point, and later you hear Coltrane in Dexter’s playing. That mix teaches you a lot about what an amazing, multigenerational, multicultural music this is. We all influence each other in different ways at different times in our careers and personalities.

June 25, 2008 · 0 comments

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Bobby Broom: Body and Soul

Bobby Broom started his career at the top. At age 16, he gigged with Sonny Rollins on the stage of Carnegie Hall, and was working the major New York clubs even before he went off to Berklee. Broom's early heroics remind me of a lady I know who won an Olympic medal when she was a junior in high school. Everything must seem anticlimactic after that.

But Broom's music remains compelling -- especially on standards, which have become his strong suit. Broom plays the old songs with lots of heart, as he demonstrates again on his The Way I Play release. This CD was made at a steakhouse instead of Carnegie Hall, and almost didn't get made at all. An acquaintance of Broom's showed up at this gig and recorded the proceedings, week after week, over a period of four months. He sent the music -- eventually enough to fill up nine CDs -- to the guitarist. Broom is hypercritical, and usually can find a reason not to release any given track, but even he was moved by the gems tossed off the cuff at this low-key gig.

There's plenty of soul in this "Body and Soul." The rhythm floats effortlessly, with just hints of a Latin ambiance -- but it never really turns into "Cuerpo y Alma." Broom makes every note ring true, lingering over his phrases with a lover's touch. The solo guitar coda at the end is especially good. Maybe it's time for the promoters at Carnegie Hall to book him for a return appearance?

May 04, 2008 · 0 comments

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Stéphane Grappelli: Body and Soul

Stéphane Grappelli's career flew a bit under the radar in the 1950s, although he toured Europe and England and regularly played club, hotel and cabaret dates. A first American tour with Django Reinhardt was planned in 1953, but Stéphane could not locate the elusive Gypsy and then learned that Django had died of a stroke. This track from 1956 shows Grappelli in top form, and as masterful as ever on a ballad. His embellished reading of the melody recalls Coleman Hawkins to some extent, but the gracefully structured lines and gorgeous tone are uniquely his own. Stéphane seasons his solo with a speck of dissonance here and there, and some characteristic swoops into the upper register. For contrast he also speeds up some of his runs, displaying impressive technique while doing so. Pianist Vander's understated accompaniment adds just the right touch.

March 25, 2008 · 0 comments

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Thelonious Monk: Body and Soul

With a kind of slow and heavy stride gait in the left hand and a right hand building arabesques around the melody before improvising, Monk definitely gives a highly personal version of this standard. A version that seems to emerge from the reiteration of almost the same chorus played again and again, with the pianist's moans and grunts reflecting his effort to make a masterwork with such density out of this overused set of chords. The final chorus comes closest to the melody and, capped by conclusive high notes, appears like a light at the end of a tunnel.

February 08, 2008 · 0 comments

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Jason Moran: Body and Soul

Jason Moran recorded a slightly shorter solo version of the same tune – issued on Modernistic – just a few months earlier. This live trio version gives more intensity to his meditative rendition of a song he obviously feels close to. His vision of it is both dark and candid, full of feeling and of respect for the tradition. The trio works as a tight unit, hardly improvises, and gradually builds a very convincing climax marked by a cyclical vamp that is first used as an intro, then as a kind of red line all through the performance.

February 08, 2008 · 0 comments

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Dianne Reeves: Body and Soul

On this very special evening at the New Morning club in Paris, Dianne Reeves was in fantastic shape, and the rendering she gave of this standard of standards is historic. The African-like wordless vocals over the piano vamp in the re-harmonized intro set the scene: it’s definitely going to be about body and about soul! So, for almost nine minutes, the singer and her band explore rhythms (Latin, funk…), textures (from the thickest to the thinnest) and registers (highs and lows that make your skin creep) in a fascinating ad lib rubato way. Pure magic!

January 27, 2008 · 0 comments

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Anita O'Day: Body and Soul

Although this version is dedicated to Coleman Hawkins, who made "Body and Soul" into one of the ultimate tenor-sax solo vehicles for decades, it is far from the spirit of Bean's historic 1939 rendering. Anita O'Day has way too much personality to be a copycat. With arranger Russell Garcia's help, she reshapes this standard with her vocal virtuosity. After singing the two "A" parts of the song and half of its famous bridge at a slow tempo, alone with the piano, she lets the orchestra in for a joyride of crazy phrasing, where she shows above-human ease with notes and words, before ending with a couple of bars of nonchalant, loose scat singing. It may have little to do with the dramatic content of the lyrics, but it's so classy that we aren't about to quibble over relevance.

January 27, 2008 · 0 comments

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Kurt Elling: A New Body and Soul

Kurt Elling not only promises "a new Body and Soul" in his song title, but he actually delivers the goods. By now, we are familiar with Elling's fastidious care in reworking the songs in his repertoire. Although his performances sound spontaneous and 'in the moment,' Elling never just wings it. Here he constructs new lyrics inspired by Dexter Gordon's rendition of this standard on the tenorist's 1976 Homecoming release. Elling takes the listener on an ingenious ten-minute journey full of densely packed vocalese, with a little dose of pianist Hobgood as a rest stop before we reach our final destination. He rewards us with a happy ending, and we can sit and contemplate how far we have come since Coleman Hawkins and Chu Berry dished out their own body-and-soul-fulness back in the 1930s.

December 26, 2007 · 0 comments

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Chu Berry & Roy Eldridge: Body and Soul

This record exerted a tremendous influence during the late 1930s. Coleman Hawkins may well have learned from Berry's example -- although Hawk's famous tenor solo on the same chord changes eleven months later shows how fast jazz was evolving during these years. But Berry's tenor musings are merely an appetizer for the main course provided by Roy Eldridge. Eldridge upstages the bandleader with a trumpet solo for the ages. A generation of brass players studied this performance, and even saxophonists memorized these licks -- a recording of Charlie Parker from 1940 finds him quoting Eldridge's solo. This landmark recording sums up the previous decade, and looks forward to the next stage in the evolution of the jazz idiom.

November 21, 2007 · 1 comment

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Django Reinhardt: Body and Soul – as heard in Woody Allen's <i>Stardust Memories</i> (1980)

In Paris during the 1930s, jazz was all the rage. But when a homegrown quintet of 3 guitars, violin and bass appeared, something seemed lost in translation. Until, that is, they played. The group's star was Belgian Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. Despite an injury that reduced his fretting to two fingers and a thumb, Django's flat-picking speed and projection on the steel-string acoustic guitar were phenomenal. Reputedly, when no pick was at hand, Django would break off a tooth from his plastic pocket comb to discharge notes that exploded with the fury of artillery ordnance. His hair may have been mussed, but Django's rockets hit their targets without fail.

November 18, 2007 · 0 comments

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Coleman Hawkins: Body and Soul

Historian Ted Gioia calls this "the most celebrated saxophone solo in the history of jazz" and "a landmark, breakthrough performance" that's been "studied by generations of musicians and is loved by countless jazz fans." Of course, not every listener will care to analyze pedagogically a musician's chordal navigation. Moreover, what Gioia describes as Hawkins's "ponderous tone" and "baroque arpeggios" assembled in "rigidly logical" construction may strike today's ears as mechanistic and old-fashioned. Even so, "Body and Soul" deserves its due. No trailblazer in tenor sax balladry cut a wider swath than Coleman Hawkins.

November 02, 2007 · 3 comments

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Joe Lovano: Body and Soul

Many critics will argue that Joe Lovano’s From the Soul is one of the great albums of the 1990s. Am I among them? You bet. Taking on “Body and Soul” is not for the faint of heart. A saxophonist gets one crack at addressing that standard bearer of jazz compositions, and in the process can ascend to greatness, make a fool of himself or, worse, fail to make an impression. “From the Soul” was a quartet date with pianist Michel Petrucciani, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Ed Blackwell (talk about an all-star cast), but Holland and Blackwell sat this tune out, bringing the tender exchanges between sax and piano to the forefront. The two musicians circle each other like dancers entwined, thoughts overlapping and complementing. They are leading each other, but never too forcefully, and neither feels like the lesser half of the duo.

October 25, 2007 · 0 comments

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