Other Places: It’s Moody In Detroit

James Moody is in Detroit this week. Mark Stryker, the music critic of The Detroit Free Press, heralded the event with a column that begins:

James Moody is my hero, and he should be yours. At 84, the irrepressible saxophonist and flutist remains a ferociously creative musician, playing with passion, energy and a sense of wonder at the endless possibilities of music.

Stryker provides a sketch of Moody’s career, then a section that includes this exchange:

Q: Do you practice every day?
A: I try to. If I don’t, I get a little cranky.

A sidebar to the column describes a few recommended Moody albums. To read the whole thing, go here.
Mark Stryker sent a couple of Moody anecdotes as Rifftides supplements to his column.

I heard two stories in recent days that encapsulate Moody’s lifelong approach to learning and evolving as a musician. Dave Liebman toldMoody smiling.jpg me that one of his early tours with Elvin Jones was part of package with a Giants of Jazz group that included Moody. Moody comes to the back of the bus to ask Liebman and fellow saxophonist Steve Grossman to write out some stuff for him. At one point, Illinois Jacquet turns around and shouts something like, “They ain’t into nuthin'” — at which point Moody says to them, “Don’t listen to moldy figs.”
Then James Carter told me he was on a tour once with Moody and every day it was, “You show me something on the horn and I’ll show you something.” Those two stories occurred some 30 years apart.

The Rifftides staff thanks Mr. Stryker.
For a sample of Moody’s energy, sound and harmonic inventiveness, here is a performance of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Ow” at a Swiss festival in 1985, when Moody was a mere 60 years old. The composer is on trumpet. The bassist is Ray Brown, who was on Gillespie’s 1940s big band with Moody. Gene Harris is the pianist, Grady Tate the drummer.

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  1. Andrew Gilbert says

    I had to add my two cents to the Moody love fest. A piece I wrote on him for the San Jose Mercury News last year isn’t online anymore alas, but here are two relevant graphs:
    “Moody is fit enough that last year he completed an arduous 10-week, 55-date tour with the Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary Band, traveling across the continent by bus. His work habits left illustrious colleagues half his age, such as trumpeter Terence Blanchard and pianist Benny Green, marveling at his mental and physical stamina.
    “‘Moody would seem to be the one who could most easily rest on his laurels,’ says Blanchard, 47. ‘But he was the most driven, dedicated, practicing musician on the tour. Every day he’d have some kind of music book, reading it page after page. As soon as we checked in, you’d hear him practicing saxophone or flute.’”
    And a piece I wrote on him back in 2004 for the San Diego Union-Tribune touches on a too-little-talked-about element of jazz longevity, namely a supportive spouse.