A SALUTE TO JAMES MOODY

HON. JOHN CONYERS, JR.
of michigan in the house of representatives
Thursday, September 9, 2004

Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, as Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Chairman of the Jazz Forum and Concert, which occurs during our Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference, I rise today to salute the lifetime achievements of one of the most distinguished artists in American music history, James Moody . Just a few years ago, in 1998, James Moody received the prestigious Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment of the Arts. The following biography, found on Moody 's own web page, chronicles a career of accomplishment deserving of such high recognition, and of this body's thoughtful attention and respect:

For nearly four decades, saxophone master James Moody has serenaded lovers with his signature song Moody 's Mood for Love; an improvisation on the chord progressions of I'm in the Mood for Love.

Born in Savannah, Georgia on March 26, 1925, and raised in Newark, New Jersey, James Moody took up the alto sax, a gift from his uncle, at the age of 16. Within a few years he fell under the spell of the deeper
more full-bodied tenor saxophone after hearing Buddy Tate and Don Byas perform with the Count Basie Band at the Adams Theater in Newark, New Jersey.

In 1946, following service in the United States Air Force, Moody joined the seminal bebop big band of Dizzy Gillespie, beginning an association that--on stage and record, in orchestras and small combos--afforded a young Moody worldwide exposure and ample opportunity to shape his improvisational genius. Upon joining Gillespie, Moody was at first awed, he now admits, by the orchestra's incredible array of talent, which included Milt Jackson, Kenny Clark, Ray Brown and Thelonius Monk. The encouragement of the legendary trumpeter-leader, made its mark on the young saxophonist. His now legendary 16-bar solo on Gillespie's Emanon alerted jazz fans to an emerging world-class soloist.

During his initial stay with Gillespie, Moody also recorded with Milt Jackson for Dial Records in 1947. One year later he made his recording debut as a leader on James Moody and His Bop Men for Blue Note.

In 1949 Moody moved to Europe where in Sweden he recorded the masterpiece of improvisation for which he is renowned, Moody 's Mood for Love.

Returning to the States in 1952 with a huge ``hit'' on his hands, Moody employed vocalist Eddie Jefferson. Also, working with him during that period were Dinah Washington and Brook Benton. In 1963 he rejoined Gillespie and performed off and on in the trumpeter's quintet for the remainder of the decade. Moody moved to Las Vegas in 1973 and had a seven year stint in the Las Vegas Hilton Orchestra, doing shows for Bill Cosby, Ann-Margaret, John Davidson, Glen Campbell, Liberace, Elvis Presley, The Osmonds, Milton Berle, Redd Foxx, Charlie Rich, and Lou Rawls to name a few. Moody returned to the East Coast and put together his own band again--much to the delight of his dedicated fans. In 1985, Moody received a Grammy Award Nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance for his playing on Manhattan Transfer's Vocalese album thus setting the stage for his re-emergence as a major recording artist. Moody 's 1986 RCA/NOVUS debut Something Special ended a decade-long major label recording hiatus for the versatile reedman. His follow-up recording, Moving Forward showcased his hearty vocals on What Do You Do and his interpretive woodwind wizardry on such tunes as Giant Steps and Autumn Leaves.

Music is more than a livelihood to Moody , so much so that portions of Sweet and Lovely, dedicated to his wife, Linda, figured prominently in the saxophonist's wedding ceremony on April 3, 1989. As well as being on the album, Gillespie was best man at the wedding for his longtime friend. The bride and groom walked down the aisle to Gillespie's solo on Con Alma then everyone exited the church to the vamp on Melancholy Baby. As their first act of marriage Linda and James Moody took communion accompanied by the groom's recording of Sweet and Lovely. In 1990, Moody and Gillespie received a Grammy Award Nomination for their rendition of Gillespie's Get the Booty, which showcases scatting at its best. Moody returns the soprano sax to his woodwind arsenal on Honey, his nickname for his wife, Linda, and Moody 's last recording for RCA/NOVUS.

On March 26th, 1995 Moody got the surprise of his life with a birthday party in New York. It was an evening of historical significance for Jazz with many guest stars and Bill Cosby as the emcee. It can be heard on Telarc's recording, Moody 's Party-- James Moody 's 70th, Birthday Celebration, Live at the Blue Note.

In 1995 Moody 's Warner Bros. release of Young at Heart, was a tribute to songs that are associated with Frank Sinatra. With an orchestra and strings, many people feel this is among the most beautiful of all James Moody recordings. Moody 's follow-up recording for Warner Bros., was called Moody Plays Mancini. It showcased Moody on all of his horns and flute. Moody 's most recent recording Homage (for Savoy Records) features music especially composed for him by Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul, among others.

Whether Moody is playing the soprano, alto, tenor, or flute, he does so with deep resonance and wit. Moody has a healthy respect for tradition, but takes great delight in discovering new musical paths, which makes him one of the most consistently expressive and enduring figures in modern jazz today. To quote Peter Watrous of the New York Times, ``As a musical explorer, performer, collaborator and composer he has made an indelible contribution to the rise of American music as the dominant musical force of the twentieth century.''