James Moody Day

March 26, 1925 – December 9, 2010


A tribute to the beloved tenor and flutist

Tenor saxophonist and flutist James Moody was born on March 26, 1925 in Savannah, Georgia.

He spent much of 1943-46 in the Air Force and then, after his discharge, he started a longtime association with Dizzy Gillespie, playing mostly tenor in his big band during 1946-48.

During 1948-51 Moody mostly lived and played in Europe and his recording of “I’m In The Mood For Love” on alto in 1949 was a surprise hit; his recorded solo was soon given vocalese lyrics by Eddie Jefferson (who renamed it “Moody’s Mood For Love”), it was a best-seller for King Pleasure, and it became a humorous part of Moody’s repertoire in later years (he sang it, improvised on it, and even yodeled a bit).

Moody led a septet for five years in the 1950s (Eddie Jefferson was part of the group), began doubling on flute, and during 1963-68 was a key member of the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet.

Due to work becoming scarce, Moody spent 1975-79 working in Las Vegas show bands, but he returned to jazz fulltime in the 1980s, mostly working as a leader during his final 30 years other than reunions with Gillespie.

Whether on tenor, flute, occasionally alto and soprano, or singing a novelty, James Moody was at his playing prime throughout his career, adding joy and humor to every performance.

Here is James Moody playing “Groovin’ High” on alto in a quartet also featuring pianist Al Haig, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Kenny Clarke.

-Scott Yanow

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