Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Moody, James

Moody, James, tenor sax, alto, soprano, flute; b. Savannah, GA, 26 March 1925. He was raised in Newark, New Jersey.

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. They were living in Reading, Pa. but his mother went to Savannah looking for his runaway father. After he was born she returned to Reading. They put him in a school for retarded children because they didn't believe he had hearing problems (he was and is partially deaf) so his mother moved to Newark so he could attend regular public school and the teacher agreed to sit him in the front of the room. He did well and even skipped "a couple of grades" but at a regular medical inspection his hearing problem was diagnosed and he was sent to Booth St School for the Deaf, where he went for two years, graduated, then went to Arts High in Newark. He was in the air force band in 1943-1946. He was stationed in Greensboro NC. He then worked with Dizzy Gilles pie in 1946-1948, beginning at the Spotlite Club (NYC, 52nd St) and touring Europe with him during that stint. 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 using players from the Gillespie band. In 1949, Moody moved to Paris, where, during a record date in Stockholm, Sweden, he recorded the masterpiece for which he is best known, "Moody's Mood For Love." The song became a huge instrumental hit in the United States. Then, the vocalese version by King Pleasure became a hit also. In 1951 Moody returned to the States. H 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 James Moody Septet, which integrated Jazz and R&B. The 1950's 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 himself into the wing for alcoholism at Overbrook Hospital in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. After six months of rest, he headed for Chicago by train. In 1963, he rejoined Gillespie performing in the trumpeter's quintet for the remainder of the decade. In the 70's 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. His (wife) and daughter--age 31 in early 1998--were in Las Vegas and when he got divorced he left. In the 90's 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'. The energetic artist 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'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.

On July 22nd 2000, Moody was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from the Berklee College of Music, which was presented to him in Perugia, Italy.

James Moody and His Modernists (1948); New Sounds (1948); James Moody Favorites, Vol. 1-3 (1949); James Moody: His Saxophone and (1950); James Moody with Strings (1951); James Moody in France (1951); Moody Story (1952); Moodsville (1952); Workshop (1954); Moody's Workshop (1954); Moody's Moods (1954); Moody's Mood (1954); James Moody's Moods (1954); Wail, Moody, Wail (1955); James Moody and His Band (1955); Hi-Fi Party (1955); Moody's Mood for Love (1956); Flute 'n the Blues (1956); Everything You've Always Wanted (1956); Last Train from Overbrook (1958); James Moody (1959); Hey! It's James Moody (1959); Moody with Strings (1960); Cookin' the Blues (1961); Another Bag (1962); Comin' on Strong (1963); Great Day (1963); Running the Gamut (1964); Moody and the Brass Figures (1967); Blues and Other Colors, the (1969); Don't Look Away Now (1969); Teachers (1970); Too Heavy for Words (1971);
And the Hip Organ (1972); Never Again (1972); Feelin' it Together (1973); Beyond This World (1977); Jazz Legacy (1980); Something Special (1986); Moving Forward (1987); Sweet and Lovely (1989); Honey (1990); James Moody And Frank Foster In (1995); Moody's Party (1995); Young At Heart (1996); Moody Plays Mancini

Helland, Dave, James Moody, Down Beat, January 1997
Robinson, Greg, Before & After: James Moody, JazzTimes, December 1996
Jazz IRC, December 6, 1995
James Moody's Greatest Transcribed Flute Solos,  transcribed by Farrell Vernon . Houston Publishing/Hal Leonard, 1995.

Contact Information:
Ina Dittke - Manager

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