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King Pleasure Falls Into the Gap

JAZZ NOTES

September 27, 1991|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A current TV commercial for the Gap features the voice of a singer plaintively offering the words, "There I go . . . there I go . . . there I go. Pretty baby, you are the soul who snaps my control."

If you've been wondering who the captivating singer is, you're not alone.

"We've gotten a lot of calls on that ad," Richard Crisman, the clothing company's director of public relations, says, referring to the spots which have aired frequently on everything from the David Letterman and Johnny Carson shows to MTV and CNN.

The singer?

King Pleasure, who in the '40s was one of the first jazz vocalists to sing "vocalese," where lyrics are written to previously recorded jazz instrumental solos.

In this case, "Moody's Mood for Love"--whose lyrics Pleasure sings--was written by singer Eddie Jefferson in the '50s. The words were his lyric interpretation of James Moody's '49 saxophone solo on the song "I'm in the Mood for Love."

However, it was Pleasure--who was born Clarence Beeks in Oakdale, Tenn., in 1922 and who died in 1981--who enjoyed the greatest success with the tune. His 1952 recording for Prestige Records was a substantial hit in the jazz world, though he remained essentially a cult figure.

But it's not that first hit version that's featured in the Gap commercial. It's a 1960 recording featured on the album, "Golden Days," which was recently reissued in CD by Original Jazz Classics Records. The latter version, recorded in Los Angeles, also spotlights a sensuous saxophone obbligato by Harold Land.

"Moody's Mood" was also revived in the '80s on albums by both George Benson and Aretha Franklin--and for good reason. The lyrics are catchy and the melody of Moody's solo is quite memorable.

Marsalis Label Searching?: Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis--arguably the most visible and acclaimed figure in contemporary jazz--may be leaving Columbia Records, for whom he's recorded for almost a decade. Though Marsalis hasn't yet decided to leave the label, he is--several sources confirm--holding top-level meetings with rival companies.

Critic's Choice: Few musicians conjure up the grace and beauty that is at the core of the be-bop art form like pianist Tommy Flanagan. The Detroit native and Manhattan resident--whose trio (bassist George Mraz and drummer Lewis Nash) appears Tuesday through Sunday at the Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood--offers sonorous sounds, picking patterns of comely melodies and stitching them together into a delightful aural tapestry.

Flanagan, 61, and recently recuperated from quadruple cardiac bypass surgery, is a Bud Powell devotee, but he has his own touch, his own approach. His repertoire is unique: along with well-known favorites such as Monk's "Ruby, My Dear" or Charlie Parker's "Confirmation," Flanagan favors such arcane numbers as Thad Jones' "A Bitty Ditty" or Parker's "Quasimodo"--the latter based on the chords of "Embraceable You." But whatever tune the pianist--whose latest release is "Beyond the Bluebird" on Timeless Records--selects, he always makes the rendition sing.

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