Moe Koffman Quartet: ‎Little Pixie/Koko-Mamey (Jubilee 45-5324, 1958)

littlepixie
Little Pixie – 1958 Jubilee issue

Why did I buy this record?  Sigh.  This may be a pickup that is regretted in later years.  But for now, suffice to say this record was purchased during a period of curating I like to call “ooooh, here’s a quirky one!”  The B-side is what caught my ear, but first the A-side.  The title implies it is a follow-up to Moe Koffman’s surprise 1956 hit, “Pixies Three” (which I may seek out and write about later if my stomach can stand it).  It begins normal enough, as kind of a rather generic easy-listening jazz piece built around a flute.  Then, at about the 30 second mark, it happens.  What did Moe do to his flute?  It sounds like he stuffed a warbler in one of the valves.  That bit of weirdness goes on for a bit before the song gets back to normal.  After a few more bars, it happens again.  This time it sounds like Moe stuffed a squirrel into his flute.  If lizards and frogs made piercing cries when stuffed into a flute valve, this song would have gone on an extra two minutes.  Thankfully Moe could only find two representatives of the animal kingdom to stuff in his flute.  He is is from Canada so this song may been recorded in the winter when reptiles and amphibians are hard to come by.

Onto the second side, which is an adequate R&B swinger with a good beat.  Moe trades in his flute for a tenor sax, and midway through he plays a good solo.  The song swings, but in a polite way.  It tries but it never gets sleazy enough to be put into the tittyshaker category, though Jubilee records tried to sell Moe’s music as sexy.  But before you get to that sax solo, the weirdness kicks in after only 10 seconds.  We hear an oddly distorted vocal:  the word (?) “Koko-Mamey”.  It sounds like Moe got a sonovox for Christmas in 1957 and could not wait to try it.  (This would confirm the theory that it was too cold for Moe to find a lizard and a frog to stuff into his flute.)  Is this song an ode to a long-lost love of Moe’s, an older woman from Kokomo, Indiana perhaps?  This less-than-inspired lyric will be repeated several times before the song ends.

koffmanalbumcovers
Perhaps this was considered sexy in rural Nebraska?

This one is not goofy/stupid enough to be a novelty record; Moe plays it straight, even through the effects.  These effects are not explored enough to make this an experimental record.   Without those effects this record is a forgettable 45 exiled to the 50¢ bins of dank record store basements and second-rate antique shops.  The best way to describe this record is that it is an odd piece of crossover jazz.  Given his biography, Moe Koffman does not seem like he was odd.  He was a talented jazz flautist, though not up there with Yusef Lateef or Herbie Mann.   He tended to follow trends and straddle the line between pop and jazz.  This formula made his records safe, and it worked for him.  He was wildly successful and enjoyed a long career as both a session player and bandleader.  The man is a decorated Canadian.  His talent cannot be denied.  I suspect the strange effects were a marketing gimmick to drive sales in a demographic with a lot of disposable income.  Moe Koffman’s music was avant-garde for 1950s suburbia and Middle America.

I have spent three paragraphs passively-aggressively bashing this record.  But the B-side makes it interesting and even likable.  I bought it, and if I buy a record chances are good that it has some quality that makes me pause and go “hmmm”.   Perhaps that is a new term to describe a record.  This one is a “hmmm-er”.

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