James Moody (saxophonist)

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James Moody
James Moody performing with Todd Coolman during a jazz festival.
Background information
Born (1925-03-26)March 26, 1925
Savannah, Georgia, United States
Died December 9, 2010(2010-12-09) (aged 85)
San Diego, California, United States
Genres Jazz, bebop, hard bop
Occupation(s) Saxophonist, flutist, composer
Instruments Tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, flute
Years active 1947–2010
Labels Prestige
Associated acts Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Barron, Jon Faddis, Eddie Jefferson, Johnny Coles, Todd Coolman, Rufus Reid, Gil Fuller, Milt Jackson
Website http://www.jamesmoody.com/

James Moody (March 26, 1925 – December 9, 2010) was an American jazz saxophone and flute player. He was best known for his hit "Moody's Mood for Love," an improvisation based on "I'm in the Mood for Love"; in performance, he often sang Eddie Jefferson's vocalese lyrics for the tune, which Jefferson had fitted to Moody's famous solo.


James Moody was born in Savannah, Georgia. Growing up in New Jersey, he was attracted to the saxophone after hearing George Holmes Tate, Don Byas, and various saxophonists who played with Count Basie, and later also took up the flute. He joined the US Army Air Corps in 1943 and played in the "negro band" on the segregated base.[1] Following his discharge from the military in 1946 he played bebop with Dizzy Gillespie[2] for two years. Moody later played with Gillespie in 1964, where his colleagues in the Gillespie group, pianist Kenny Barron and guitarist Les Spann, would be musical collaborators in the coming decades.

In 1948 he recorded his first session for Blue Note Records, the first in a long recording career playing both saxophone and flute. That same year he relocated to Europe, where he stayed for three years, saying he had been "scarred by racism" in the U.S.[1] His European work, including the first recording of "Moody's Mood for Love", which became a hit in 1952,[3] saw him add the alto saxophone to his repertoire and helped to establish him as recording artist in his own right, and formed part of the growth of European jazz. Then in 1952, he returned to the U.S. to a recording career with Prestige Records and others, playing flute and saxophone in bands that included musicians such as Pee Wee Moore and others. In the 1960s, he rejoined Dizzy Gillespie. He later worked also with Mike Longo.[4]

In a 1998 interview with Bob Bernotas, Moody stated that he believed jazz has definite spiritual resonance.[4]

The James Moody Quartet (with pianist Renee Rosnes, bassist Todd Coolman, and drummer Adam Nussbaum) was Moody's vehicle later in his career. Moody played regularly with Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars and the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars Big Band and also often collaborated with former Gillespie alumnus, the trumpeter-composer-conductor Jon Faddis; Faddis and Moody worked in 2007 with the WDR Big Band in Cologne, Germany under the direction of Michael Abene. And along with Faddis, toured in 1986 with the Philip Morris Superband hosting artists like Hammond organist Jimmy Smith, Kenny Burrell, Grady Tate and Barbara Morrison. Included in this line-up were Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, Jimmy Heath, Kenny Washington, Slide Hampton and Monty Alexander on a four country, fourteen city one month tour of eighteen concerts notably Australia, Canada, Japan and the Philippines, starting on September 3, 1986 with its first concert in Perth, Australia. The Philip Morris Superband concept started a year previous in 1985.

On November 3, 2009, Moody appeared live in an interview conducted in both Italian and English (Moody spoke Italian) with the jazz aficionado, Nick "The Nightfly", on Radio Monte Carlo's late-night "Monte Carlo Nights" program. The chat featured an amiable Moody talking about his career.

Moody was married to Linda Moody; they resided in San Diego. He was an active member of the Bahá'í Faith.[4] In 2005, the Moodys established the Moody Scholarship Fund[5] at the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College-State University of New York (SUNY Purchase); the first Moody Scholars, named in 2007, are saxophonist Andrew Gould and trumpeter Maxilmilien Darche. Moody was an NEA Jazz Master and often participated in educational programming and outreach, including with the International Association for Jazz Education, or IAJE.

On November 2, 2010, Moody's wife announced on his behalf that he had pancreatic cancer, and had chosen not to have it treated aggressively. Moody died in San Diego, on December 9, 2010, of complications from pancreatic cancer.[2]

He was divorced twice, and is survived by his wife of 21 years, the former Linda Petersen McGowan; three sons, Regan, Danny and Patrick McGowan; a daughter, Michelle Moody Bagdanove; a brother, Louis Watters; four grandchildren; and one great-grandson.[6]

Two months after his death, Moody won the Grammy Award posthumously for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for his album Moody 4B. Named in his honor, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center hosts the James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival.[7][8]


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Art Farmer

With Gil Fuller

With Dizzy Gillespie

With The Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars

  • Dizzy's World directed by Jon Faddis (1999)
  • Things to Come (2001)

With Dexter Gordon

With Milt Jackson

With Elvin Jones

With Charles Mingus

With Lalo Schifrin

With Bobby Timmons

With Cedar Walton

With Tubby Hayes

With Roberta Gambarini

  • Easy To Love (Groovin' High/Kindred Rhythm, 2006) Moody plays tenor sax and sings with Roberta on "Lover Man" and "Centerpiece,"


  1. ^ a b Moody’s Mood for Bop by Patrick Ambrose The Morning News
  2. ^ a b George Varga, Obituary Sign on San Diego (December 9, 2010). Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  3. ^ Allmusic biography
  4. ^ a b c Bob Bernotas, Interview with James Moody MelMartin.com (1999) Retrieved, March 26, 2011.
  5. ^ "The James Moody Scholarship at Purchase College", Purchase College-State University of New York. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  6. ^ Peter Keepnews, Obituary, The New York Times (December 10, 2010). Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  7. ^ "TD Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival". NJPAC. Retrieved 2012-10-08. 
  8. ^ Tammy La Gorce, "A Week of Jazz and Remembrance", The New York Times, October 5, 2012.

External links[edit]