I’d just started to write this review when I realised that I could almost ‘lift’ last time’s review (of his October 15, 2004 visit to CJC), starting with the above headline.
Before the gig. Last year Danny Moss arrived only just in time, having got lost in the Chichester road scheme. This year the pre-gig tension lasted much longer, with the news that Danny had spent most of July recovering from a bout of pneumonia. In a couple of conversations with Pete Godfrey the message was that Danny was playing as well as ever but ‘overdoing it’. ‘After all’, said Pete the evening before the gig, ‘people of that age can drop down dead anytime’. He didn’t of course!
The music. Danny’s programme was typical. In the late-50s, when he began to give up bebop, of which he was apparently a fine exponent, he moved into the world of Dixieland and the ‘true mainstream’ of Webster, Hawkins, and the like. Eventually it was the ‘true mainstream’ that became the main focus of his work. His bands now play only standards. Ask him why he doesn’t play originals and he says emphatically that he doesn’t need to: the standards are unsurpassed. This is about as fruitful a line of questioning as asking Django Bates why Loose Tubes didn’t play standards.
The first half consisted mainly of ballads, with Danny’s tenor more predominant than usual on compositions by Gershwin, Ellington, Green, and Rodgers. Variety came from John Kirby’s Front and Centre, fast and furious, with Chicago closing the first half.
The second half was more varied - including Struttin’ with Some Barbecue from the Dixieland repertoire; a latin version of Star Eyes; the lovely Neal Hefti blues, After Supper; Ellington’s Cottontail and Take The A Train; and the much-requested Poor Butterfly – with a number new to Danny’s repertoire: Lerner and Loewe’s I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face. (I’ve been regularly listening to the Dunstan Coulber Quartet version of this number, in its way just as compelling. Make your mind up when Dunstan plays at the club on November 18).
Overall the music was of the same very high standard as before. Not exactly one of jazz’s radicals, Danny still manages to surprise and hold my attention.
The musicians. On Danny’s first two visits to the club (2002, 2003) there were moments when Danny seemed to feel obliged to drive and cajole his musicians. Last year’s outstanding success was in part due to the extra contribution made by his musicians.
This year’s gig benefited from Pete Godfrey’s best ever playing on piano. Attentive and unobtrusive as always, he showed extra confidence and flair in his solo work, responding to the improved sound quality of a ‘played in’ piano.
Making his debut at the club was Danny’s son, Danny Moss Jr, on bass, succeeding the excellent Steve Thompson. Danny Jr played with great control and confidence and, unsurprisingly, an excellent understanding of his father’s playing. Throughout the evening he was convincing and to the point in his breaks and short solos but it was in the second half that he played with particular exuberance.
Another debutant at the club, Cookie Jones on drums was definitely an asset to the quartet. Definitely the most forceful and driving of Danny’s drummers he nevertheless played with sensitivity throughout, taking his occasional solo opportunities with panache, particularly on Struttin’ With Some Barbecue and Front and Centre.
Summary. I have unabated respect and affection for Danny Moss – the man and his music. As I get older I am less inclined to say ‘for his age’ but it is this, allied to the commitment and passion he brings to his work, that is really quite moving. In August 2007 he will be 80. Shouldn’t we start planning a special night for him at CJC?