*Celebrated jazz saxophonist and flutist James Moody, who achieved fame as an associate of Dizzy Gillespie and was the co-composer of “Moody’s Mood for Love,” died Thursday (Dec. 9) of pancreatic cancer at a hospice in San Diego, The New York Times reported. He was 85.
Moody revealed last month he had cancer and decided against receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatment, the Times said.
The musician started his career with trumpeter Gillespie shortly after World War I and continued performing well into the 21st century. He was known for his distinctive sounds and was equally fluent on both tenor and alto saxophone, a relatively rare accomplishment in Jazz.
Moody was also known for his self-effacing humor.
His peers and critics found his talent exceptional. In a 1980 review, Village Voice critic Gary Giddins praised Moody’s “unqualified directness of expression” and said his improvisations were “mini-epics in which impassioned oracles, comic relief, suspense and song vie for chorus time.”
Moody was born in Savannah, Ga., March 26, 1925, and raised in Newark, N.J. He started playing saxophone in school and played with an all-black Army Air Force band during World War II. After his military discharge, he auditioned for Gillespie.
A fire at a Philadelphia nightclub destroyed the band’s equipment, uniforms and sheet music in 1958 and Moody said he started drinking. He checked himself into Overbrook, a psychiatric hospital in Cedar Grove, N.J., for several months. He celebrated his recovery by writing and recording “Last Train From Overbrook,” an up-tempo blues tune that became one of his best-known compositions.
Moody said he saw his musical education as a work in progress.
“I’ve always wanted to be around people who know more than me,” he said in a 2006 interview. “Because that way I keep learning.”
Moody, divorced twice, is survived by his wife of 21 years, Linda, and three sons, Patrick, Regan and Danny, all California residents.