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JAMES MOODY: 1925 - 2010

 

 

By Culturekiosque Staff

LOS ANGELES, 13 DECEMBER 2010 — For over six decades, saxophone master James Moody has serenaded lovers with his signature song Moody's Mood for Love, an improvisation on the chord progressions of I'm in the Mood for Love. Mr. Moody, who recorded more than 50 solo albums as well as songs with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and B.B. King, died Thursday at San Diego Hospice after a 10-month battle with pancreatic cancer, his wife said. He was 85. Known to all as simply "Moody,"he was designated a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Master in 1998.

Born in Savannah, Georgia on March 26, 1925, and raised in Newark, New Jersey, James Moody took up the alto sax, a gift from his uncle, at the age of 16. Within a few years he fell under the spell of the deeper more full-bodied tenor saxophone after hearing Buddy Tate and Don Byas perform with the Count Basie Band at the Adams Theater in Newark, New Jersey.

In 1946, following service in the United States Air Force, Moody joined the seminal bebop big band of Dizzy Gillespie, beginning an association that — on stage and record, in orchestras and small combos — afforded a young Moody worldwide exposure and ample opportunity to shape his improvisational genius. Upon joining Gillespie, Moody was at first awed, he now admits, by the orchestra's incredible array of talent, which included Milt Jackson, Kenny Clark, Ray Brown, Thelonius Monk. The encouragement of the legendary trumpeter-leader, made his mark on the young saxophonist. His now legendary 16-bar solo on Gillespie's Emanon alerted jazz fans to an emerging world-class soloist.

During his initial stay with Gillespie, Moody also recorded with Milt Jackson for Dial Records in 1947. One year later he made his recording debut as a leader James Moody and His Bop Men for (Blue Note).

In 1949 Moody moved to Europe where in Sweden he recorded the masterpiece of improvisation for which he is renowned, Moody's Mood for Love.

Returning to the States in 1952 with a huge "hit" on his hands, Moody employed vocalist Eddie Jefferson. Also, working with him during that period were Dinah Washington and Brook Benton.

In 1963 he rejoined Gillespie and performed off and on in the trumpeter's quintet for the remainder of the decade.

Moody moved to Las Vegas in 1973 and had a seven year stint in the Las Vegas Hilton Orchestra, doing shows for Bill Cosby, Ann-Margaret, John Davidson, Glen Campbell, Liberace, Elvis Presley, The Osmonds, Milton Berle, Redd Foxx, Charlie Rich, and Lou Rawls to name a few.

Moody returned to the East Coast and put together his own band again.

Moody's 1986 (RCA/NOVUS) debut Something Special ended a decade-long major label recording hiatus for the versatile reedman. His follow-up recording, Moving Forward showcased his hearty vocals on What Do You Do and his interpretive woodwind wizardry on such tunes as Giant Steps and Autumn Leaves.

In 1995 Moody's (Warner Bros.) release of Young at Heart, was a tribute to songs that are associated with Frank Sinatra. With an orchestra and strings many people feel this is among the most beautiful of all James Moody recordings.

Moody's last recording for Warner Bros. is Moody Plays Mancini which showcases Moody on all of his horns and flute. A tribute to the American icon Henry Mancini.

Moody's 2004 release of Homage on the Savoy Label had been a great cause for celebration. His first new studio album in 6 years, the aptly named Homage was a tribute to Moody featuring new tunes specially written for him by the likes of Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, Kenny Barron, Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock, David Hazeltine and Marc Copland. Bob Belden produced the project.

Last week, the album Moody 4B (IPO Recordings) was nominated for a GRAMMY Award in the category of Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group.

For an extended interview through the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Project, please visit this web site. Featured in this audio clip Moody talks about how he would like to be remembered.



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