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
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
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