The evening opened well – the arrival of the large audience and the Pete Godfrey Trio, with the focus of attention being the club’s beautiful, new, shiny black piano! – but with five minutes to go to the scheduled start-time the attention of CJC committee members and Pete Godfrey shifted nervously as there was still no sign of Danny Moss. Pete agreed that if necessary the trio would start without him.
At 7.32 Danny suddenly appeared. He’d lost his way in Chichester and had just parked five minutes away. He’d rushed to the club with his saxophone and a case of CDs. With brief apologies all round he went straight on stage. The opening number was a sparkling, up-tempo version of ‘Just In Time’.
Once the first number had ended to enthusiastic applause, Danny said hello to the audience, amusingly explained his late arrival, introduced the members of the band, and then launched into a first set of vintage, mainstream jazz. Several of the tunes were Duke Ellington compositions, all finely played, but for me the highlights were his wonderfully sensitive interpretation of ‘My One And Only Love’ - dedicated to his wife, jazz singer Jeanie Lambe - and a delightful Neal Hefti blues, ‘After Supper’.
A much younger man could have been excused for taking a rest during the interval, but not Danny. Fortified by a well-earned pint he talked affably to his colleagues and to members of the audience, especially those buying his CDs!
The second set lived up to the same high standard and the audience responded even more warmly. The evening closed with Duke Ellington’s excellent, little-known ‘Blues To Be There’. Danny explained his selection as his contribution to road safety: ‘gentle music to calm you down before you drive home’.
In hindsight this was certainly the best of Danny’s three appearances at CJC – for me it was one of the most outstanding performances ever at the CJC. How a 77-year old can achieve such creativity and intensity in a gig that started inopportunely and was taking place towards the end of his packed, annual four-month visit to Europe from Australia is hard to credit.
One of the keys to his general success is his belief in performing his chosen music – only jazz standards, mainly written between the 30s and the 60s. Another factor is that if you judge Danny against his peers, many of whom died long ago, I would contend that most of them diluted their jazz abilities by playing extensively in recording studios, dance bands, and variety halls. Danny seldom moved away from the jazz arena. While their jazz playing often lost its heat and passion, Danny was and remains on fire.
I contend, however, that his search for perfection, both from himself and from his colleagues, is the real clue to the night’s success.
A format of a ‘star musician with a local trio’ can lead to music that is unbalanced and unsatisfactory but on this occasion we were listening to a quartet, in which all four musicians - with Pete Godfrey on piano, Steve Thompson on bass, and Roy Huggett on drums all excelling themselves in their solos and as a rhythm section – combined to tremendous effect.
We thank them all and look forward to their return. Barry Boyce.