09 December 2010

James Moody

The only unfortunate part about writing a jazz blog is the fact that it often entails eulogizing, and tonight calls for it. James Moody, the saxophonist whose playing graced the records of Dizzy Gillespie and Kenny Barron, to say nothing of his own recordings, passed away today, succumbing to the pancreatic cancer which had overtaken his body. Lee Mergner posted Moody's obituary at JazzTimes this evening.

The jazz world has lost yet another link to the so-called glory days, but that sentiment sells Moody short as a musician and a man. In 2002 I came home to Miami from the University of Florida one weekend in October to see Moody play a guest concert with the University of Miami Concert Jazz Band. He killed it that night. Playing with the energy of a man less than half his age, his beaming wit was clearly evident in his playing. My memory of the night is hazy, but I do remember being blown away by a rendition of Body and Soul, played with the Miami faculty ensemble to open the evening. I left Gusman Hall in Coral Gables floored by his performance; as a septuagenarian he played with fire, precision, and levity which most of us couldn't dream of pulling off. Even in the winter of his years he still had it. Though I was saddened to hear of his passing, I can at least console myself with the luck that I was able to enjoy the fruits of his passion and dedication to art firsthand. The world is a lesser place without him.

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