Pop-jazz. Jazz-pop. The labels are mere shorthand for a sort of music that’s tough to describe. The terms can often be applied in a pejorative sense, used to describe (and dismiss) disposable music. But that’s not at all what we have here. Mood Lit, the second album from Brooklyn pianist Jim Duffy, is a delight from start to finish.

The dozen tracks serve up sprightly melodies that swing. Duffy is aided and abetted by a small combo featuring The Smithereens‘ Dennis Diken on the trap kit, plus Paul Page on bass and Lance Doss on guitars (the latter two are also members of Ian Hunter’s band). The lineup is the same as on Duffy’s first release, 2005’s Side One. On Mood Lit, Duffy drives strong, snappy compositions via acoustic piano or a Wurlitzer 200A.

There are some production flourishes — such as a vibes, horns and glockenspiel — but Mood Lit is an incredibly organic disc. The songs sound as if they’re being played right in your living room. The melodies are strong enough that vocals aren’t missed; on the contrary, the arrangements would suffer if anything else were added. Note-perfect arrangements throughout make Mood Lit that unique disc that’s perfect as a backdrop to cocktails and entertaining and highly engaging enough to reward careful listening. Musical touchstones lean in a jazz-for-all-the-people direction: hints of Brubeck, Bacharach and Guaraldi are there, and there’s even a subtle nod to the Ides of March’s “Vehicle,” a 1970 Billboard pop hit. Another tune kicks off with an ambience that calls to mind Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” but heads immediately in another (equally pleasing) direction.

Sometimes instrumental albums suffer from repetition or a dearth of ideas. Mood Lit finishes as strong as it starts, and doesn’t sag in the middle either. Pointing out a highlight would only do disservice to the other eleven tracks. Highly recommended.

From "Most Enjoyed of '09":

Jim Duffy: Mood Lit -- Look this one up. It's instrumental piano music with Dennis Diken on drums, and it has a sound that harkens back to when the future was something.

Jim -- Really good CD; every cut had SOMETHING. My favorites: "The Swerve," "After the Storm," "Balladeer" (good use of Claire), the title tune. But the one I really dug was "The Night Clerk." Congratulations! Love, Joel

It's rare that I'll review an instrumental album. But this one hit my sweet spot - and with Dennis Diken (Smithereens) on the drums, I figured it was worth looking into. Jim Duffy gathered a small jazz combo in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to put this lounge pop confection together. Included are Paul Page (bass) and Lance Doss (guitars) from Ian Hunter's band. If you enjoy Burt Bacharach or The Vince Guaraldi Trio you will really love this album. The keyboards are where Jim shines on every track here. You'll hear a bit of a Stevie Wonder styled melody on the tribute "Stevie Says." Occasionally it takes a detour - "Memento Mori" is one of those songs where the horns take you on a journey, and you don't miss vocals one bit here. Every song tends to flow in a different direction, so unlike other jazz pop albums I've heard it doesn't get stylistically repetitive. Superior production and mixing work here balances out the players, so no one overshadows the other and the combo plays like a well oiled (organic) machine. Overall a very enjoyable album, and a big cut above your average instrumentals heard in Starbucks. So put down the coffee and enjoy a cocktail with Jim Duffy.

Jim Duffy, Mood Lit (Three Dots) Duffy composes utterly charming pieces for the piano and organ. Duffy's pieces are instantly attractive, but the writing is sophisticated enough to attract exacting ears. Another fine album from a guy who knows how to make good music.
That bit about "twilight falling on kitchenettes" is totally true. Check out "Balladeer" for a super smooth, but very mobile number.
Soundtrack music for home furnishing shopping, detective dramas, and under-70 mph car chases. piano/keyboard-led concept pop. if nothing else, do your voice breaks with any of these tracks!

Audio Playlist

Latest Release: "Pale Afternoon"

 The latest release  from Jim  Duffy is "Pale Afternoon," a  collection of 11  moody and bouncy  instrumental pop tunes. Buy CDs here.

Music Available

You can find Jim Duffy's music on CD Baby.

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And on Spotify.

And on Amazon.

Some music tracks are now available on YouTube, both here and on the 3dotsmusic channel.

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