December 12, 2010
FROM THE AIR FORCE TO DIZ:
Sax man James Moody joined Dizzy Gillespie when bebop was a baby (The Australian, December 13, 2010)
Moody (who was known universally by his surname throughout his life, after his service in the US Air Force) was one of the last survivors of the era when the modern jazz style of bebop was being developed.Posted by Orrin Judd at December 12, 2010 9:28 PM
Billed as "Dizzy's new winning rave tenor saxophonist" he joined Gillespie at the Spotlite Club in New York in 1946. Gillespie had pioneered the new style of jazz with the alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, but Parker had stayed on the West Coast after they had travelled there in late 1945.
So the trumpeter was on the hunt for a saxophonist who could act as a similarly high-level musical partner within the context of his new big band. He had spotted Moody's talents a year earlier, when he sat in with Gillespie's band at an air force base concert.
At first Moody was turned down by the band's arranger Gil Fuller for not playing loudly enough, but Gillespie overruled him and Moody joined the band for its debut in Manhattan.
"Right from the opening night, I took the saxophone solos," Moody recalled. "I came straight out of the air force and joined Diz."
An early example of his ability to fill Parker's sizeable musical shoes was the band's recording of John Lewis's tune Emanon in which Moody took a memorable solo that had all the logic of a formal composition. It is often played nowadays as an integral part of the piece, even though it was originally entirely improvised.
It was to be a long musical partnership, the two men united by their exceptional abilities as jazz improvisers, and by a shared sense of humour and outlook on life. Although Moody left the big band in 1948 to form his own group, he was reunited with Gillespie many times in his small groups in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. When Gillespie died in January 1993 Moody was at his side.