James Moody
National Visionary

Born 1925 in Savannah, Georgia


James Moody, one of the original jazz bebop musicians, has impressed fans for over fifty years. As a young man, Moody began playing with many of the great jazz musicians and founders of bebop, and in the course of his career, he has become an accomplished soloist on the tenor and alto saxophone, as well as the flute. He has never stopped in his pursuit to expand his knowledge of music.

Moody was born on March 26, 1925 in Savannah, Georgia and grew up in Newark, New Jersey. He first began playing the alto sax at the age of 16, but within a few years had taken up the tenor saxophone after hearing Buddy Tate and Don Byas perform with the Count Basie Band.

Moody as a young boy

This interview has
been archived in the
NVLP Collection of
African American
Oral Histories at the
Library of Congress
American Folklife
Moody first met Dizzy Gillespie while serving in the Air Force. After being discharged in 1946, he auditioned and joined Gillespie's bebop band, beginning a relationship that would last until the legendary musician’s death in 1993. Moody’s impending musical genius was first revealed in his solo on Gillespie’s Emanon. Moody rejoined Gillespie in 1963 and again in the 1990’s, as a member of the United Nations Orchestra.

In 1947 he made his recording debut as a bandleader with James Moody and His Bop Men. He moved to Europe in 1949, where he recorded his signature piece, “Moody’s Mood for Love” while in Sweden. He returned to the United States in the early 1950s and soon after formed a septet with bop vocalist Eddie Jefferson as singer. In 1956, the group recorded Flute 'n the Blues, Moody's first album performing as a flutist. In the 1970’s he spent seven years performing in Las Vegas with the Hilton Orchestra, performing with stars such as Bill Cosby, Ann-Margaret, Liberace, Elvis Presley, Lou Rawls and Redd Foxx.

Moody received a surprise tribute at New York’s Blue Note for his 70th birthday, and in 2000 celebrated his 75th birthday at the Avery Fisher Hall with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

In 1997 he received National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award. He has also been inducted into the international Jazz Hall of Fame and received an Honorary Doctorate from Florida Memorial College. Moody also made his movie debut in 1997 in Clint Eastwood’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

Moody and his wife, Linda, married in 1989 in a ceremony that featured the saxophonist’s music and longtime friend, Dizzy Gillespie, as best man.


James Moody's Wikipedia Page

URL (Click to bookmark): http://www.visionaryproject.org/moodyjames