Dudley Moore Trio ‘Today’ CD (ÉL) 4/5

Pianist, musician extraordinaire and polyglot, Dudley Moore, spread out his talents over various activities, but at the heart jazz was a major passion and this recording from 1971 during a three month tour of Australia demonstrates just why. Heavily influenced by two of the modernist innovators in Errol Garner and Oscar Peterson, Moore nonetheless evolved into a talented practitioner and composer, and this is reflected on the album before you of which five of the nine pieces are originals. He excelled on mid-tempo renditions of popular pieces, such as a relaxed rendition of ‘Two For The Road’, with some lovely blues inflections, and then into an expansive solo passage. A mean groove by his associates, bassist Peter Morgan, and long-term collaborator, Chris Karan, is created on ‘Robyn’s Blues’, with another self-penned composition that swings gently. One of the stand out numbers is the extended reading of the Hal David and Burt Bacharach classic, ‘The Look Of Love’, that has regularly featured among the repertoire of jazz instrumentalists and vocalists (Diana Krall), and after a faux Pink Panther style intro, the Garner-esque phrasings come into play. The album contained an unexpected pop hit which was released as a single, ‘Song For Suzy’, with wordless vocal harmonies that take a leaf out of the Sergio Mendes sound, popular at the time. In a more mournful tone, ‘Before Love Went Out Of Style’, hints at a reverence for the balladry work of Bill Evans and this represents the more introspective and vulnerable side to Moore’s own personality that is invariably overlooked. In spite of his unquestionable talents, he did suffer from major self-doubt and this ultimately proved to be his downfall, contributing in part to his premature death aged sixty-six, along with diagnosed physical ill-health. No bonus cuts. Black and white photos of his non-musical accomplices and a lengthy article on Dudley Moore shed useful light on how his jazz interests fitted into his wider life trials and tribulations that dogged him.

Tim Stenhouse