James Moody

Dee Dee Bridgewater hosts James Moody's 80th birthday celebration, from the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

James Moody

"Blessed are those that run around in circles for they shall be called big wheels!"

That's the inscription on the home page of James Moody's Web site. This big wheel, with the beatific sound on saxophone and flute, celebrated his 80th birthday on a cruise to Bermuda with a boatload of jazz fans. He invited his ear nose and throat man and his cardiologist, who gave a formal presentation about keeping your heart young through a good diet, exercise and loving jazz.

James Moody has been making friends with jazz ever since he played in a U.S. military band in World War II. In 1945, the young saxophonist playing with a military band in North Carolina met trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, who told Moody, "Look me up when you get to New York." Only months later and fresh out of the service, the 21-year-old saxophonist joined the likes of Thelonious Monk, Milt Jackson, and Ray Brown in Dizzy's big band. A contemporary edition of that orchestra -- now called the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band -- is onstage at the Kennedy Center and on JazzSet.

Danny Glover is the MC, Roy Hargrove the trumpet soloist, Paquito D'Rivera the sax and clarinet soloist, Jimmy Heath the tenor soloist, and Italian newcomer Roberta Gambarini the vocalist. Musical Director Slide Hampton conducts. Bassist John Lee is Executive Director and keeps this band going stronger than strong. Throughout the inspired occasion, Mr. Moody plays, sings, beams, and looks much younger than his chronological age. But who's counting?

The Band
Andres Boiarsky
Antonio Hart
Justin Robinson
Gary Smulyan

Randy Brecker
Gregory Gisbert
Frank Greene
Claudio Roditi
Jay Ashby
Steve Davis
Jason Jackson
Douglas Purviance
Piano -- Mulgrew Miller
Guitar -- Marty Ashby
Bass -- John Lee
Drums -- Dennis Mackrel
Percussion -- Roger Squitero

"Dizzy's Business"
"Con Alma" (arr. Hampton)
"Hothouse" (Dameron, arr. Mackrel)
"Manteca" (arr. Fuller, an example of late 1940s Gillespie Afro-Cuban sound)
"I Mean You" (Monk, arr. Mackrel)
"Stardust" (Carmichael)
"Moody's Groove" (Heath)

James Moody's Web Site

Dr. Billy Taylor is the Artistic Advisor for Kennedy Center Jazz.
Thanks to Kevin Struthers of Kennedy Center Jazz, with Jean Thill, Sean Costello and intern Matt Bremer.
Our music mix is by Duke Markos with Chris Weal of Big Mo Recording, assistant Pedro Seminario.
Producer Becca Pulliam, Executive Producer Thurston Briscoe III.