WUSF Focus Artist of the Week: James Moody

Photo: NPR.

All this week on All Night Jazz we’ll celebrate the music of tenor saxophone legend James Moody.

Though born on March 26, 1925, in Savanah, Georgia, Moody grew up in New Jersey listening to the Count Basie Orchestra on the radio.

He joined the Army in the ‘40s and played in their segregated big band. After the war he played bebop with Dizzy Gillespie, establishing a long time relationship. He departed for Europe in the early ‘50s where he recorded the song “I’m in the Mood For Love.”

His famous solo from the song was adapted by the then fledgling vocalese master Eddie Jefferson and recorded by singer King Pleasure as “Moody’s Mood For Love.” It became an unexpected, yet enduring hit and was part of Moody’s repertoire until his death at the age of 85 in 2010.

Not only was Moody an outstanding tenor and alto saxophonist, he was also an accomplished flautist and occasional vocalist. An NEA Jazz Master, Moody continued to work with Gillespie throughout his career as well as fellow NEA Jazz Master, Kenny Barron, Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt and many others.

He was also a member of the United Nations Jazz Orchestra. Moody released scores of recordings as a leader during his lifetime and received a Best Jazz Album Grammy Award just after his passing.

We’ll hear the saxophone and flute of James Moody all week long on All Night Jazz.