Few artists in any field can claim a career that had them active and vibrant across 8 decades. Yet that is the legacy of James Moody, the genial and fabulously talented saxophone and flute player and bandleader who made his first recordings in 1948, and was working right up until his health made it impossible earlier this year.
Early this year we learned that Moody was seriously ill and had to undergo surgery, but it was only last month when we learned more details from his wife Linda:
“Some of you know that Moody has been ill for quite sometime,” the letter begins. (Everyone has called him him “Moody” for as long as I can recall – even his wife.) “It has been his decision not to talk about it, but now he wants you to know that he has Pancreatic Cancer. He was operated on last February 28th to have the tumor resected, but it proved to be impossible without endangering his life.”
Moody decided to forgo intensive chemotherapy treatments last month, and we learned today that Moody passed yesterday afternoon from the Pancreatic Cancer. While this turn of events was inevitable, the passing of such a great musician and iconic figure and all around nice person is a sad moment worthy or reflection.
There have been a flurry of rememberances on jazz sites all over the web, but the first place I saw this was on the USA Today feed, which noted:
Moody, perhaps best known for the hit Moody’s Mood for Love, was also a virtuoso flutist, band leader and composer. He came to prominence in the mid-1940s while playing in Dizzy Gillespie’s all-star big band.
“Moody’s Mood for Love is a national anthem,” comedian Bill Cosby, a longtime Moody confidante, told the paper. In the 1980s, Cosby and Nancy Wilson sang a duet in an episode of The Cosby Show.
Moody was also known for just being a nice guy.
“He has taught me integrity, how to express love for your fellow human beings, and how to combine and contain manhood and maturity,” Cosby said.
More here on the man Wynton Marsalis called “a titan of our music.”
To celebrate the life of someone who gave so much of himself to the world through his music, there is no better way to remember him than through his art. So here are several live recordings of James Moody playing, captured over the last four decades.
From a 1985 appearance with trumpet legend Dizzy Gillespie
From a 2008 WBGO (Newark, NJ) tribute:
Showing he ‘still had it’ at a 2007 jazz fest:
Source: USA Today