James Moody (March 26, 1925 – December 9, 2010), jazz saxophonist & flautist.

James Moody was one of the giants of the saxophone during the be-bop years, following after Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon. He was born in Savannah, Georgia and raised in Newark, New Jersey. He was partially deaf, but attracted to music and the saxophone in particular. After playing in the Air Force during World War II, he joined Dizzy Gillespie’s band, alongside pianist Kenny Barron, who would become a good friend and musical associate. During a European tour, Moody left Dizzy’s group and remained there for several years, during which he recorded his biggest signature song, Moody’s Mood for Love“. It was his own version of the standard, “I’m in the Mood for Love. In concerts, Moody would often sing it, improvising lyrics as he went. The song became a huge hit. It has since been recorded by a variety of artists, including Eddie Jefferson, Blossom Dearie, George Benson, Take Six, Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Amy Winehouse, and even Elliot Yamin on Season 5 of American Idol.

James Moody with Dizzy Gillespie

After a battle with alcoholism, Moody returned to the U.S. and rejoined Dizzy Gillespie, who remained a frequent musical partner until Gillespie’s death. Along with his dazzling ability on the alto and tenor saxophones, Moody added the flute to his arsenal and immediately established himself as a singular artist on it. During the 60’s, he lived in Las Vegas, regularly backing such artists as Elvis Presley, Liberace, Liza Minelli, and the Osmond family. Despite the confining musical conditions, he maintained an intense practice schedule at home and after moving to San Diego, he re-emerged on the jazz scene with even more skillful playing. As he noted:

“If I’m the same tomorrow as I was yesterday, I’m losing. You should grow in some kind of way every day.”

In 1998, he was named an NEA Jazz Master. Earlier this year, he announced that he had inoperable pancreatic cancer. One week before his death, his latest recording, Moody 4B, was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Instrumental Jazz album.

Visit the official James Moody website: www.jamesmoody.com

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