I have spent a good part of the week in Moodsville, hanging with Coleman Hawkins.
The album in question is the suitably titled “At Ease with Coleman Hawkins,” a 1960 set that finds the tenor saxophone giant collaborating with Tommy Flanagan (piano), Wendell Marshall (bass) and Osie Johnson (drums) on a program of standards including the Gershwins’ “For You, For Me, For Evermore.” It’s suitable too because the disc’s laid back vibe is exactly what the Moodsville label specialized in during its brief run (1960-63).
As to the label’s origins, I turn to David Brent Johnson at Indiana Public Media (read: the broadcasting arm of my alma mater, Indiana University).
In 1960, Prestige Record label owner Bob Weinstock launched a new series of records called Moodsville, as a response to the popularity of 1950s “mood music” albums, ushered in to a large extent by Jackie Gleason’s Capitol LPs featuring trumpeter Bobby Hackett.
Prestige attempted to stake a somewhat higher aesthetic ground, stating, "We at Prestige feel that there is room for honest jazz performances of ballads wherein the musical integrity of the artist is maintained and at the same time the original beauty and feeling of the ballad is not lost."
What emerged was a sort of thinking-man’s jazz-ballad alternative, or jazz-for-jazz-loving-lovers.
It is easy to forget more than 60 years later just how popular those Gleason albums were in the years between the rise of bop and the arrival of rock. His debut, “Music for Lovers Only” (1952), hit No. 1 and spent three years in the Billboard top 10. Gleason churned out follow-ups on seemingly a daily basis with “Lover's Rhapsody” (1953), “Music to Make You Misty” (1953), “Music, Martinis and Memories” (1954) and “Lonesome Echo” (1955) all topping the charts, while another half-dozen releases reached the top 10. Every one of Gleason’s first 10 albums sold in excess of a million copies.
So it’s easy to see where Weinstock was coming from in creating Moodsville, as well as its counterparts Swingville and Bluesville. There also exists the theory that he founded the labels “not as a stroke of marketing genius but as a device to reduce tax liabilities on sales on his primary label.”
Whatever the motive, there is plenty of fine jazz to be found in Moodsville, as the discography below demonstrates. My favorites, in addition to the aforementioned Hawkins album, are “Bluesy Burrell,” which pairs Hawkins with the seminal guitarist, and Gene Ammons’ “Nice an’ Cool.”
“Red Garland Trio and Eddie Lockjaw Davis,”1960
“Red Alone,” Red Garland, 1960
“Eddie Lockjaw Davis with Shirley Scott,” 1960
“Shirley Scott Trio,” 1960
“Red Garland Trio,” 1960
“At Ease with Coleman Hawkins,” 1960
“Frank Wess Quartet,” 1960
“Tommy Flanagan Trio,” 1960
“Alone with the Blues,” Red Garland, 1960
“With Feeling,” Lem Winchester, 1960
“Al Casey Quartet,” 1960
“Nocturne,” Oliver Nelson with Lem Winchester, 1960
“Ballads by Cobb,” Arnett Cobb, 1960
“The Hawk Relaxes,” Coleman Hawkins, 1961
“Interlude,” Billy Taylor, 1961
“In My Solitude,” Willis Jackson, 1961
“Nice an' Cool,” Gene Ammons, 1961
“Like Cozy,” Shirley Scott, 1961
“Everything's Mellow,” Clark Terry, 1961
“Mood Indigo! Taft Jordan Plays Duke Ellington,” 1961
“Eastern Sounds,” Yusef Lateef, 1961
“Good Old Broadway,” Coleman Hawkins, 1962
“The Bad and the Beautiful,” Sam the Man Taylor, 1962
“Play The Jazz Version of No Strings,” Coleman Hawkins Quartet, 1962
“Plays the Jazz Version of All American,” Clark Terry, 1962
“The Solid Trumpet of Cootie Williams,” 1962
“The Soulful Moods of Gene Ammons,” 1962
“Bluesy Burrell,” Kenny Burrell and Coleman Hawkins, 1962
“Misty,” Eddie Lockjaw Davis and Shirley Scott, 1962
“Coleman Hawkins Plays Make Someone Happy,” Coleman Hawkins
“Play Richard Rodgers,” Miles Davis and John Coltrane, 1963
“The Music Of George Gershwin: Played By America's Greatest Jazzmen,” 1963
“The Music Of Cole Porter: Played By America's Greatest Jazzmen,” 1963
“The Music Of Richard Rodgers: Played By America's Greatest Jazzmen,” 1963
“Dave Pike Plays the Jazz Version of Oliver,” 1963
“Lusty Moods, Various Artists, 1963
“The Broadway Scene,” Various Artists, 1963
“Lucky Thompson Plays Jerome Kern And No More,” 1963
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