Some jazz contemporaries were perfect for each other but never recorded. Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown, for example, in the early '50s. Or Art Tatum and Benny Goodman in the '40s. In other cases, some dynamic duos did wind up in a studio together—but strangely didn't record nearly enough. One prime example is Red Garland [pictured] and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis.
The tender blues pianist and tough tenor were paired only once—on an album called Moodsville, Vol. 1, recorded for Prestige in December 1959. For the life of me, I have no idea why only four tracks were captured that day and why the pair didn't record another 25 albums together. The missed opportunity probably had to do with Davis re-joining Count Basie's band. Which would explain why Arnett Cobb was enlisted for a few Garland albums that followed. Or perhaps Prestige owner Bob Weinstock preferred to keep Garland front and center as the leader of his own trio for sales purposes rather than backing Davis.
Whatever the reason, it's one of jazz's great shames. The four tracks recorded during the Moodsville, Vol. 1 session were When Your Lover Has Gone, We'll Be Together Again, Softly Baby, and an untitled blues that was actually the theme of the TV detective show M-Squad. The result was a perfect union, so perfect, in fact, that I can't think of a finer pianist behind Davis in all his years of recording with small groups.
The reason they sound so special together is the combination of Garland's lush voicings up against Davis' big smokey tenor. In keeping with the album's title, each track is taken at a patient, ballad tempo that instantly relaxes. The sound of these two guys playing off each other at this slow-motion pace is truly something.
Garland's trio is, of course, sublime. Joining him was bassist Sam Jones and drummer Arthur Taylor. Garland remains throughout in a caressing groove while Davis ratchets down on the tenor to deliver a sensual, confident narrative on each tune. What you have is Garland's powdery chord clusters gently interrupted by Davis' big bossy tenor, which nudges and never shoves. Its the sound of an elephant looking after a kitten.
I have no idea why this duo recorded only four tracks or why those in charge didn't hear what I hear now. Clearly, it was a dumb decision. I also have no clue why additional albums weren't recorded. Another dumb decision. I am grateful, however, for the four tracks that were recorded. Tough and tender never sounded so good together.
JazzWax tracks: The first three tracks mentioned are on Moodsville, Vol. 1, which can be found here. For whatever reason, Untitled Blues was never issued on Moodsville but appeared on Gentle Jaws, which is available here. You can sample both at the Concord sites mentioned.
JazzWax clip: Here's Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis in 1983 in Copenhagen with Kenny Drew on piano playing the ballad That's All...