Starting back in 1958, Prestige Records, began creating brand lines to appeal to different types of consumers. It launched Swingville, Bluesville and Moodsville. Each provided buyers with a self-evident signal as to the general type of jazz inside. On Moodsville releases, the music by leading jazz musicians generally moved at the pace of your pulse and was meant to be played as background for a romantic evening, dinner or just relaxing.
Among the finest Moodsville recordings—and there were quite a few—were the ones by tenor saxophonist Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. During the late '50s and early '60s, the tough tenor was a hard-charging exclamation point whether backed by trio, a soul-gospel organ or Count Basie's band. But on ballads—really slow ones—Davis had room to snort, shove notes around and proudly exhibit his huge, bossy sound on the reed instrument.
In January 1960, Davis recorded on the Moodsville label with Shirley Scott. Known primarily for her work on the Hammond organ, Scott here plays piano, which gives you a chance to hear her in a different space. The pair was supported exquisitely by bassist George Duvivier and drummer Arthur Edgehill. [Photo of Shirley Scott at the piano by Francis Wolff]
Each of the 10 songs featured virtually the exact same seductive, walking tempo, and all the songs were standards that suited Davis perfectly. Album tracks were The Man I Love, Serenade in Blue, What's New, Man With a Horn, It Could Happen to You, I Cover the Waterfront, The Very Thought of You and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
Great players like Davis and Scott could leave a cloud of dust when playing uptempo. But they also could break your heart on the crawlers. This is a fine example of that side of their personalities, particularly the clarity of their improvisation and Davis' gruff touches.
JazzWax tracks: I'm not sure why Prestige hasn't reissued all of these Moodsville albums in a set, but such is life. You'll find seven of the tracks on Moodsville, Vol. 4 on Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis with Shirley Scott: The Complete Cookbook Sessions here. While it's not as "complete" as the title would lead you to believe, since not all the Moodsville, Vol 4 tracks are here, the fidelity is absolutely fantastic.
A special JazzWax thanks to David Langner.
JazzWax clip: Here's an example of how beautifully Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis played on a ballad—and how gifted Shirley Scott was on the piano as accompanist...