“Every time I begin to play,” states Moody, I don’t hold back, I always do my best.” Whether he’s playing tenor sax, the alto, soprano or flute, Moody does so with the fluidity, deep resonance and wit that have made him one of the most consistenly expressive and enduring figures in modern jazz.
Born in Savannah, Georgia, on March 26th, 1925, and raised in Newark, New Jersey, James Moody took up the alto sax, a gift from his uncle, at the age of 16. A few years later, impressed by saxmen Buddy Tate and Don Byas of the Count Basie Orchestra, he switched to the full bodied tenor saxophone. Following his discharge from the US Air Force in 1947, Moody joined the influential BeBop big band of Dizzy Gillespie. During that time, he recorded with trumpeter Howard McGhee and vibist Milt Jackson for Dial Records. A year later he made his recording debut as a leader (James Moody and His BeBop Men), using players from the Gillespie band. In 1949, Moody moved to Paris, where he is best known, “Moody’s Mood for Love.” The song became a hit also. In 1951 Moody returned to the States. He needed a vocalist to sing “Moody’s Mood for love.” Moody hired Eddie Jefferson, who coincidentally had written the lyrics. It was during this time that Dinah Washington toured with the influential James Moody Septet, which integrated Jazz and R&B. The 1950s also saw Moody working with Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt and recording several albums as a flautist. Moody was one of the first bebop saxophonists to embrace the flute.
Moody’s prolific career hit a roadblock in 1958, when a devastating fire at The Blue Note Club in Philadelphia destroyed his band’s instruments, uniforms and arrangements. A culmination of incidents led Moody to check himslef into the wing for alcoholism at Overbrook Hospital in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. After six months of rest he headed for Chicago by train and recorded the spectacular and inspirational album, appropriately entitled ‘Last Train From Overbrook’.
In 1963, he rejoined Gillespie performing in the trumpeter’s quintet for the remainder of the decade. In the 70s he worked in showbands in Las Vegas. Moody’s career received a boost in the mid 80’s with a Grammy Award nomination for his solo on Manhattan Transfer’s VOCALESE album. Moody also recorded ‘Something Special’, ‘Moving Forward’, ‘Sweet and Lovely’ and ‘Honey’ during that decade for the Novus/RCA label.
In the 90s he teamed up again with his lifelong friend, Dizzy Gillespie, to tour Europe and the United States as a member of the famous United Nations Orchestra, whose live recording at the Royal Festival Hall in London received a Grammy Award for ‘Best Jazz Big Band Release’.
In 1995 Telarc released ‘Moody’s Party’, a live recording of his 70th birthday celebration at the Blue Note in New York City. In April 1996, Moody released his first album for Warner Bros. Records, the refreshingly romantic and effervescent ‘Young at Heart’. Remarkably, it was only the second time in his career that he had used strings in a recording.
The energetic artisit has since been touring extensively in America and Europe, but found the time to appear in the role of Mr Glover in Clint Eastwood’s film, ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’.
During the same period Moody received his first Honorary Doctorate Degree of Humane Letters from the Florida Memorial College, was inducted into the international Jazz Hall of Fame and received the prestigious 1998 Jazz Masters Fellowship Award granted by the National Endowment for The Arts.
James Moody shines as the maestro of improvisation on Warner Bros. Next release, ‘Moody Plays Mancini’. Moody continues to surprise audiences with his vitality, innovative style of playing and his great sense of humour. He remains one of the most sought after artisits for master classes, workshops and lectures, because, not only does he inspire young talent through his high standard of musicianship and positive outlook on life, but also through his ability to communicate his experiences in and around the jazz world.
James Moody’s 75th birthday was celebrated at Avery Fisher hall in New York on April 3, 2000, with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Wynton Marsalis and many guests, such as, Slide Hampton, Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross, Jon Faddis, Kenny Barron, Janis Siegel and Bill Cosby, to mention but a few. In conjunction with his birthday, he received proclamations from the cities of New York and Newark, New Jersey and was honoured by the Congressional Black Caucus.
Most recently, he has recorded a superb new album for the Savoy label, an 'HOMAGE', with artists such as Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea et al, dedictaing compositions to him. 'HOMAGE' was released January 27, 2004. In addition, he also made a guest appearance on Queen Latifah's upcoming album, produced by legendary producer, Arif Mardin, recording his very own signature tune, 'Moody's Mood For Love.'
Moody continues to surprise audiences with his vitality, innovative style of playing and his great sense of humour. He remains one of the most sought after artists for master classes, workshops and lectures, because, not only does he inspire young talent through his high standard of musicianship and positive outlook on life, but also through his ability to communicate his experiences in and around the jazz world.