James Moody

Moody in cap 1.jpgThe news about James Moody is not good. He has been aware of it for some time, but kept it private until this week. No one who knows him will be surprised that he is at peace with the decision he has made. Here is the first paragraph of George Varga’s story in The San Diego Union Tribune.

Jazz saxophone legend James Moody, a San Diego resident for the past 21 years, has disclosed that he has had pancreatic cancer since at least February — and that he had decided not to receive any chemo therapy or radiation treatment.

To read all of the article, go here.
The last time we were together, in 2007—too long ago—I interviewed Moody on stage at a festival. He reminded me that we had known each other for 50 years and had the kindness to inflate my ego by telling the audience, “And we’ve been buddies, too.” Then he went on to play an astonishing set with the Bill Mays Trio. Go here for a Rifftides account of his concert on that occasion.
On Moody’s 83rd birthday, WBGO-FM, the jazz station in Newark, New Jersey, put together this profile using his own words. It summarizes his attitude toward music, people and life.

Now, the musical part of that philosophy in action: Moody has the first solo in this 1985 performance of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Ow,” with Gillespie, Ray Brown, Gene Harris and Grady Tate.

Please take a moment to give a thought to James Moody.

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  1. Jack Tracy says

    I’ve known Moody since about 1950, had the pleasure of producing several recordings with him, including one with strings conducted by Tori Zito that contained a version of “Body and Soul” which, after the final note was played, the entire string section of tough perfectionists applauded by tapping their bows on their instruments.
    A kinder, more thoughtful and irrepressibly humorous friend never existed. To employ such a banality as “he will be missed” is so far off the mark as to be ludicrous. And if there is such a thing as an afterlife, I’d love to be there when he and Dizzy get together again and I could hear one of their uproarious conversations.
    Go gently, Moody.

  2. Denis Ouellet says

    In the past few days I had heard about how he was not feeling good. I have always enjoyed listening to him play, sing and talk.
    A great, wonderful musician.
    Please get well Mr Moody.

  3. says

    Dear Mr. Moody,
    Your music is clear demonstration of the miraculous in this world of ours. I pray you are as triumphant in this battle as you have been in the many others life surely placed in your path. And when this chapter does come to a close ( as it will for us all ) I pray there is a heaven or its equivalent where you are as rewarded as all of us that love your music have been, and will be for eternity.
    Ken Hatfield

  4. Paul Muller says

    Very sad news – but a full life that has touched many.
    I have this lyric from somewhere stuck in my head..
    “James Moody you can come on in and blow now, man, … we’re through.”

  5. says

    Terrible news about Moody. But rather typical of him to defy conventional protocol, rejecting traditional therapies to treat the illness. I’m sure Linda will see that he’s kept as comfortable as possible.
    Here’s my cherished Moody memory:
    c. 1970’s: There was a great, swinging club in Raleigh, NC called The Frog & Nightgown, affectionately called The Frog. Operated by a British bio-chemist/jazz drummer, he thrilled starving area jazz fans when he opened the club and began booking True Star Attractions, i.e., the big bands of Count Basie, Stan Kenton, and Buddy Rich, along with The MJQ, George Shearing, Maxine Sullivan, Stan Getz, Phil Woods, Teddy Wilson, Marian McPartland … well, you get the idea.
    Moody’s stand began with a big, gushy, laughing bear hug greeting because I hadn’t seen him in a long time, and the next day, he arrived at my house, driving a large, red Cadillac convertible with the top down. “C’mon Carol! Let’s go for a drive.” This not terribly long after the 1965 March in Selma.
    I gazed somewhat warily around the street as I entered the passenger side of the car, and sort of hastily slunk down. Moody laughed at me until I found sufficient bravery to sit up straight and just enjoy the ride.
    Jump from that period to 2003. He was just entering the dining room of the club in Boston where he was headlining, spotted me and rushed over. “Carol! Wanna go for a drive?”

  6. says

    Dizzy’s choice of tenor players who have accompanied him, and supported
    his bands with their sonorous voices was always excellent:
    Don Byas
    Dexter Gordon
    Lucky Thompson
    G.W. “Big Nick” Nicholas
    John Coltrane
    Sonny Rollins
    Hank Mobley
    Ernie Wilkins
    Stan Getz
    Sonny Stitt
    Brandford Marsalis …
    James Moody’s name is mentioned as a band member at the Dizzy Gillespie entry of jazzdisco.org (which is not quite complete!).
    This says that he “served” longer in Dizzy’s various bands than the other prominent tenorists I’ve listed above. The latest date where he is listed there in one of Dizzy’s working groups is 1989.
    It’s so sad, and it is brutal that Mr. Moody got hit by the very same, and merciless kind of cancer as his former boss, the late Dizzy Gillespie.
    Let’s all hope, and pray for a painless, and peaceful last chapter in
    James Moody’s swinging book of life.

  7. says

    Mr. Moody probably ranks as one of my favourite sax players. Loved his music. I’m pretty sure it has touched me and will continue to do so to the generations after us who are fortunate enough to be introduced to his music.
    From Singapore, thank u truly for the music. R.I.P. Mr. Moody.