Eddie Jefferson

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Body and Soul

The melodramatic spoken introduction sets the scene nicely for this very special record, which is packed full of unforgettable moments, as Jefferson squawks, squeaks, croaks, yodels and splutters his ingenious lyrics to some of the classic improvised solos of jazz. Not only is the music great in itself, but it also allows you to fully appreciate the achievement of the original soloists, although it must be admitted that there is a certain disadvantage to getting to know these versions of ‘So What’ and ‘Now’s the time’, which is that whenever you subsequently hear the Miles Davis and Charlie Parker originals, you can’t help thinking about Jefferson’s lyrics. But it’s worth it. ‘There I go, there I go again’ is a commentary on the fact that it was Jefferson who originally recorded lyrics to James Moody’s saxophone solo on ‘I’m in the Mood for Love’, before King Pleasure subsequently re-recorded it with Blossom Dearie as ‘Moody’s Mood for Love’, achieving a commercial success of the kind that Jefferson himself never knew; Jefferson provides a third new set of lyrics for this version, and does Dearie’s contribution in a hilarious falsetto. Horace Silver’s ‘Psychedelic Sally’ and ‘Filthy McNasty’ are the hottest tracks on the album. The latter is a classic, better than the original for my money, and features a great James Moody solo, as do many of the other tracks; McNasty, whose name comes from a character in The Bank Dick, an old W.C. Fields film, is imagined by Jefferson as a hard-drinking womaniser with no redeeming qualities, at least far as men are concerned: ‘before you know it he done copped your chick and took her clean away from you, boy!’ The highlight, however, is the title track. Coleman Hawkin’s complex and, on the face of it, saxophone-specific solo on ‘Body and Soul’, would obviously present formidable challenges to anyone crazy enough to try singing it, but Jefferson pulls it off as a true labour of love, with lyrics that are inspired but at the same time often quite amusing: ‘and he blew and he blew and he blew, he blew his tenor!’