Born: March 26, 1925
The longtime playing partner of Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody was one of the first saxophonists to play bebop extensively on tenor. An extremely versatile stylist, Moody has played superb blues and bebop, effective R&B-influenced material and soul jazz, and first-rate ballads. He's an accomplished player on alto as well as tenor, and was also among the earliest jazz musicians to become a tremendous flutist. Moody began playing alto at 16, then switched to tenor. He played in a military band while with the Air Force, and had one engagement with Dizzy Gillespie's orchestra. After his discharge, Moody joined Gillespie, playing tenor until leaving in 1948. He traveled to Europe, touring France, Scandanavia and Sweden, now playing alto. Moody made his recording debut as a leader for Blue Note in 1948, heading an octet that included Cecil Payne, Art Blakey and Chano Pozo. He recorded "I'm In The Mood For Love" in 1949, and it became a hit three years later, thanks to Eddie Jefferson's lyrics and King Pleasure's vocals. During the '50s, Moody led a septet that played R&B-tinged material, made several excellent dates for Argo and led another group playing mainly flute. During the '60s he played in a three-tenor band with Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons. Moody cut many '50s albums for Prestige and Argo, and continued recording for Prestige in the '60s, as well as DJM. He rejoined Gillespie from 1963 to 1968, then worked in Las Vegas during the late '70s. There were '70s sessions on MPS/Pausa, Muse and Vanguard. Moody continued visiting Europe and heading bands, as well occasional reunions with Gillespie. They toured in 1980. Moody resurfaced in the late '80s recording for RCA/Novus, and has made some fine albums for that label. His early Blue Note and some '50s Prestige sets have been reissued on CD, as have some '70s Muse releases. His RCA/Novus dates, including Honey from '91 are currently available.