James Moody was world-renowned as jazz master

James Moody was world-renowned as jazz master

James Moody was a world-renowned, Grammy award-winning jazz saxophonist and flutist. He contributed music to Baha’i events, including the Second Baha’i World Congress in 1992, even before he formally enrolled in the Baha’i Faith.

Born in Georgia and raised in New Jersey, Moody pursued music despite being born with impaired hearing. He honed his saxophone skills in a U.S. Army Air Forces band during World War II and emerged after the war as a soloist with jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie’s big band.

In 1949 he recorded an improvised melody based on the 1930s song “I’m in the Mood for Love.” With original lyrics added, the new version, “Moody’s Mood for Love,” became not just his theme song but also a standard in its own right. The song has been recorded by dozens of artists and inducted into the Grammy Awards’ Hall of Fame.

For years Moody was a soloist with Gillespie, as well as with pianist Mike Longo — both longtime friends who embraced the Baha’i Faith decades ago. He led his own bands for years, recorded 50 albums under his own name, and was a supporting musician for big-name acts in countless recordings and Las Vegas shows.

Moody was well-known for his onstage humor, versatility, technical mastery of his instruments and fearless, natural-sounding improvisation.

He was given a 2011 Grammy award posthumously for his latest album, “Moody 4B,” and garnered other Grammy nominations over the years. He is an inductee in the International Jazz Hall of Fame and other music halls of fame; a Jazz Master as named by the National Endowment for the Arts; and recipient of honorary degrees and special awards from Berklee College of Music, the Juilliard School, Harvard University and other institutions. He received several annual awards for his musicianship from Down Beat, Jazz Times and other publications.

Both before and since his 1993 enrollment in the Baha’i Faith, he contributed music for Baha’i-sponsored events nationwide, including gatherings promoting race unity and international understanding. In 1994 the Spiritual Assembly of San Diego honored him with a Nightingale Award for contributions and service by African-Americans to the city of San Diego.