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James Moody

Wednesday, September 20, at Nighttown.

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Not only is James Moody among the major bop tenor sax players -- ranking with Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, Sonny Stitt, and Lucky Thompson -- but he's also a superb alto man and flutist. He initially made his impact with Dizzy Gillespie on a 1946 version of "Emanon" ("no name" spelled backwards), opening his solo with a startling, trumpet-like burst of notes. Overall Moody's music has a relaxed quality, but he sometimes tears through chord progressions like Parker, Gillespie, and Byas. His use of rhythmic displacement is complex and dazzling; he employs unexpectedly wide intervals and has tremendous technique. After playing with Gillespie, Moody moved to Paris in 1948 and recorded with both European and visiting American stars, including Miles Davis and Tadd Dameron. Upon his return to the States, Moody became popular not only with jazz, but also with R&B fans for his soulful ballad work. A version of "I'm in the Mood for Love" that he recorded in Sweden had lyrics put to it by Eddie Jefferson and became a hit for vocalist King Pleasure. Known as "Moody's Mood for Love," it's been recorded frequently since then. Moody continued to lead groups through the '50s and early '60s, then played with Gillespie again from 1963-1971. In the '70s, Moody worked in Las Vegas for a while, then moved to New York in 1979 and San Diego in 1989. He's frequently led his own bands during the past 25 years, and today he's as popular as he was in the early '50s. Considered one of jazz's elder statesmen, he still plays very well, displaying chops that are enviable, as his two recent CDs, Young at Heart and Moody Plays Mancini, illustrate.

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