Jazz Week: Jazz Saxophonist James Moody.
Jazz musician James Moody. Just after World War II, Moody joined the bebop big band of Dizzy Gillespie and played with Milt Jackson. His most famous recording is of an improvisatory piece he performed in 1949, now known as "Moody's Mood For Love." Terry talked to him in 1996, about his CD, "Young At Heart," (Warner Brothers) which had just been released. It is a collection of Frank Sinatra tunes. In this CD, MOODY performed as vocalist, tenor/alto/soprano saxist and flutist. Some of the selections include "Love and Marriage," "Nancy," "Only the Lonely" and "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning." (ORIGINAL BROADCAST: 7/23/96)
Other segments from the episode on December 28, 2000
DATE December 28, 2000 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Rebroadcast of 1996 interview with jazz saxophonist
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
It's jazz week on FRESH AIR. We're featuring interviews with musicians and
singers who have made significant contributions to the development of jazz.
Saxophonist James Moody first became known for his 1949 recording of "I'm in
the Mood for Love." His reworking of the melody was so good, it became the
melody of a new song, with a lyric by Eddie Jefferson called "Moody's Mood For
Love." Here's Moody's 1949 recording.
(Soundbite of James Moody's "I'm in the Mood for Love")
GROSS: James Moody began his career in 1947, in the early days of bebop,
playing with Dizzy Gillespie's Big Band. By the end of the '40s he'd left the
band and moved to Europe. Moody returned to the States in the early '50s to
lead his own band. He played with Gillespie again during much of the '60s but
in the '70s, Moody left the jazz scene to work a steady job in a Vegas hotel
band. When he returned to the jazz world, critic Gary Giddins wrote that
there are few living musicians he enjoys hearing perform more than Moody.
I spoke with James Moody in 1996, after the release of his delightful
recording of songs associated with Frank Sinatra. Here's Moody singing on the
title track "Young at Heart."
(Soundbite of "Young at Heart")
Mr. JAMES MOODY (Jazz Musician): (Singing) Fairy tales can come true, it can
happen to you, if you're young at heart. (Scatting) For it's hard, you will
find, to be narrow of mind, if you're young heart. (Scatting) You can go to
extremes with impossible schemes. You can laugh when your dreams fall apart
at the seams. And life gets more exciting with each passing day, and love is
either in your heart or on its way. But you know that it's worth every
treasure on Earth to be young at heart...(Scatting).
GROSS: James Moody, welcome to FRESH AIR. And I want to say that I think
this new album is delightful, and it's really delightful to hear you sing and
to sing a song that's not a novelty song. Are you singing more now?
Mr. MOODY: Well, maybe this might be the beginning of something, you know,
maybe. Who knows. You know, when you have strings like that, it makes you
think you can sing, you know.
GROSS: What do you think of your voice?
Mr. MOODY: Well, the funny thing is I'm not as concerned with my voice as I
am with my lisp that I have, you know, because I'm partially deaf. And I was
born that way and it doesn't mean that I have a speech impediment, it's just
that I don't hear S's. So--because my wife always tells me when I'm singing
"Mood for Love," I'd say, `You give me a smile,' and it sounds like you're
saying, `You give me a mile.' `When I'm wrapped up in your magic,' you know,
in the lyrics. So anyway, that--you know, but I guess at this stage of the
game, I just say what I say and hope that it comes out.
GROSS: Well, has that held you back from singing? Are you self-conscious
about that lisp?
Mr. MOODY: No, really, not at all because I say what I say. I've been doing
it for 71 years, talking, so if I say, you know, `Fairy tales can come true,'
you know--I don't know, too true--`It can happen to you if you're young at
heart.' (Singing scat).
GROSS: Oh, I love that. Now are there tones that you can't hear musically in
Mr. MOODY: Well, I don't know. I don't know because I can't--I don't know
what I don't hear. Does that make sense to you?
GROSS: Yeah. No, I know what you're saying.
Mr. MOODY: Yeah.
GROSS: I want to ask you a little bit more about your hearing. How old were
you when you realized you had a hearing problem?
Mr. MOODY: I was born that way and I never realized it. I still haven't
realized it because I hear what I hear and that's it. See, if you don't know
what you're missing, how can you say what you miss?
Mr. MOODY: You know what I mean? There was insistence that I wear a hearing
aid because I would hear so much better, and I put this hearing aid on and I'm
telling you, I thought I was going to go nuts with the clanging and banking
that I heard--you know, banging, click, clack, boop! And you could hear the
tires of the car, budda-budda-budda-budda-budda. I says, `Oh, my goodness, if
people hear this, I mean, it's nerve-wracking.' So what I did was, I turned it
off and they said, `Boy, isn't that much better?' I said, `It certainly is.'
GROSS: So you've intentionally not worn a hearing aid.
Mr. MOODY: Oh, no, no, no, no. And there's nothing that can be done, like
no surgery or anything. So like what I do is like--`What did they say, honey?
What did that say? Honey, honey, what was that? What was that?' My wife, my
honey Linda, boy, she tells me, you know, whatever it is, if I feel that I've
You heard that joke didn't you, Terry, about--the guy says, `Oh, man,' he
says, `Boy, I just spent $4,000 on this wonderful hearing aid, you know.' And
the guy says, `Yeah, what kind is it?' The guy said, `It's 12:00.'
GROSS: It took me second. Right. So did music sound different with the
Mr. MOODY: Oh, I wouldn't dare do that. I wouldn't dare put a hearing aid
on and play music because just the way I hear it, that's the way I hear it,
because if I put the hearing aid, and then it's banging and clanging again,
and clinking. Yeah.
GROSS: Tell us the story of the band that you played in, in the Air
Force--and this was right after you got out of college.
Mr. MOODY: Well, the band that I played in the Air Force was an unauthorized
Air Force band, because when I was in the Air Force it was segregated. So
three-quarters of the base was Caucasian and one-quarter was Negro and they
wanted to have a Negro band. So they formed one. And then Linton
Garner--Erroll Garner's brother--he was drafted and he came to the base where
we were. And then Pop Reeves(ph), he was drafted and he wrote some things
for Benny Goodman. And I never will forget Linton Garner. One day he asked
me, he says, `Moody,' he said, `play your scales for me.' So I said,
`Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da.' And he said, `Well.' I said, `Well, what?' He said,
`Is that it?' I said, `Yeah.' He said, `My boy, you're in for a rude
awakening,' you know, so anyway, but little by little...
But you know, I'd like to say one thing, Terry. When I was in Greenville,
North Carolina, I was 18 years old, right, and I was living in Newark, New
Jersey. Do you know that the German prisoners of war used to come into town
and jump off the truck, you know, with the PW on their back and those hats,
and go into the restaurants and eat and we couldn't?
Mr. MOODY: Yep.
GROSS: How did you feel about serving in the Air Force, knowing that your own
country wouldn't let you in to certain restaurants?
Mr. MOODY: Well, what could you do? You see, because, in the first place,
like, there was nothing you--when I--after I left and went to Europe and would
live--I was living in France--I would send my wife--excuse me, not my wife--I
would send my mother a letter and I'd have on there--it had like `The Land of
the Brave,' I'd put `The Land of the Ofay,' you know, or something, USA, you
know, and my mother would say, `Jim, don't do that. I mean, you get in
trouble, you know.' But hey, it was the truth, you know, because, like, it was
their land, you know, not mine.
GROSS: You joined the Gillespie Big Band after you got out of the Air Force.
Mr. MOODY: Yep.
GROSS: And it was a very innovative band. It was one of the first big bands
really playing the new music of bebop. What was it like for you to be in this
band? What were the most exciting parts of it for you?
Mr. MOODY: Well, it--the most exciting thing about that band was that when I
grew older and found out where I was when I first was in that band because,
like I've said before, when I joined the band, Thelonius Monk was the piano
player, Ray Brown was the bass player, Milt Jackson with the vibraharpist, and
Kenny "Klook-mop" Clarke, he was the drummer. That was the rhythm section,
along with Howard Johnson, Cecil Payne and all the people like that. Now if I
would have known where I was, like, I would have fainted. See?
Mr. MOODY: So I'm glad I was naive. I didn't--I wasn't that hip, so I didn't
where I was. I mean, I knew, but I didn't. You understand what I'm saying?
GROSS: Yes, I do.
Mr. MOODY: OK.
GROSS: And what was Dizzy Gillespie like as a band leader? I think you've
called him your musical father.
Mr. MOODY: Oh, yeah. Diz was wonderful, man. And like, then, like, we knew
each other, and it was all right, you know, but I got to really know him
better when I played in the quintet, you know. And--but, musically, he was--I
mean, he was bad, boy. He was bad. And then Diz was always studying, too.
You know? Like, he would always--you know, he'd sit down at the piano, `Look
at this, look at that one, oh, look at this.' And he'd stop me, he said,
`Moody, this is where everything is, through the piano. I don't care what the
instrument is, that's where it is, the trombone, violin, trumpet or saxophone,
flute, this is where it is. You look at it, you see everything. When you
play the piano, all the notes are laid out there for you. So, you know, and
all those notes are on every one of the instruments.' So Diz said, `You want
to really know what's happening, you learn the piano.' Yeah.
GROSS: Did you?
Mr. MOODY: Yeah, that's what he did. What? Pardon me?
GROSS: Did you learn it?
Mr. MOODY: Well, I can play the changes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I can sit
down and I can pick out what I have to do, you know?
Mr. MOODY: Before I used to have to call a friend--`Hey, could you play the
changes for me so I can hear what they sound like?' But I don't have to do
that. I can play them myself now.
GROSS: My guest is saxophonist James Moody. More after our break. This is
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: It's jazz week on FRESH AIR. Let's get back to our 1996 interview
with saxophonist James Moody.
Your first solo was recorded with the Dizzy Gillespie Band. The tune is
called "Emanon," which is `no-name' spelled backwards. This was, I think, in
1947. Do you remember your solo on that record? Could you sing it?
Mr. MOODY: Yeah, I remember it. Yeah. I remembered it. Because I wasn't
supposed to take the solo. The baritone player was supposed to take it and
he didn't show up or something. And the solo went...
(Soundbite of Moody scatting)
Mr. MOODY: Something like that. You know?
GROSS: Now how come you remember it? Do you remember it from actually
playing it or from listening to the record?
Mr. MOODY: No, because a lot of times when we see each other--like,
sometimes I'm talking to Jimmy Heath and ...(unintelligible) we call each
other because he's a wonderful saxophoner--some of the guys--and we'll talk
and somebody's `Oh, yeah, man, you remember "Emanon"?' when we were with
(Soundbite of Moody scatting)
Mr. MOODY: And we'd all sing it for a moment together, you know?
(Soundbite of "Emanon")
GROSS: Now the most famous solo that you've ever taken was on your first
recording of "I'm in the Mood for Love." And then Eddie Jefferson, a singer
who was working with you, wrote a lyric to your solo...
Mr. MOODY: Uh-huh.
GROSS: ...and that became the song known as "Moody's Mood For Love." Let's
hear the Eddie Jefferson version of "Moody's Mood For Love," his lyric to your
(Soundbite of "Moody's Mood For Love")
Unidentified Singer: There I go, there I go, there I go, there I go. Pretty
baby, you are the soul that snaps my control. Such a funny thing, but every
time you're near me I never can behave. You give me a smile and then I'm
wrapped up in your magic, there's music all around me, crazy music, music that
keeps calling me so very close to you, turns me your slave. Come and do with
me any little thing you want to--anything, baby, just let me get next to you.
Am I insane or do I really see heaven in your eyes, bright as stars that shine
up above there in the clear blue sky? How I worry about you, just can't live
my life without you. Baby, come here. Don't have no fear. Oh, if they
wonder why, I'm really feeling in the mood for love. And tell me why I stop
GROSS: Now what impact did "Moody's Mood For Love" have on your career?
Mr. MOODY: Well, if I don't do it, to this day, people said I haven't been
there. I think that goes to show you that no matter how much I practice, say,
`There I go, there I go,' or play, you know (scatting), then it's like I
haven't been there, but, like, I'm not--it doesn't make me feel, like, `Oh, I
don't want to be doing this,' but I mean, I love doing it, and it's been very
good to me, that solo, and I'm honored, and privileged, I believe, you know,
to be able to do it.
GROSS: Now I want to take a pause here and play something that's basically an
outtake, but it's such an entertaining outtake, and this is something you
recorded in 1958, the tune is called "The Moody One(ph)," and you stop...
Mr. MOODY: I goofed...
Mr. MOODY: ...on the record date.
GROSS: Well, let's play the outtake and hear the goof.
Mr. MOODY: I goofed on the record date and they left that in there, yeah. I
GROSS: That's right. Here it is.
(Soundbite of "The Moody One")
Mr. MOODY: (Singing) Better do it again. ...(unintelligible), I goofed.
Yes? I goofed on the record.
Unidentified Man #1: Come on, just sing it.
Unidentified Man #2: That's why you're singing it.
Unidentified Man #3: That is going to be on the LP.
Unidentified Woman: Yeah.
GROSS: Were your outtakes usually as entertaining as this one?
Mr. MOODY: Oh, sure, that's like the bloopers, you know, like, that was my
blooper, that was my way of doing it, you know. But anybody when they do
something like that, they always say something that's a little comical, you
GROSS: Were you surprised that this actually ended up on the record?
Mr. MOODY: Well, yeah, because, like, you know, finally he says, `Yeah,
we're gonna leave it on there, too.' I said, `What?' `Yes.' I said, `Well, go
ahead. I don't care.' And then I'd go and play places and people says, `I
goofed--I goofed on the record date.'
GROSS: I want to ask you something else about Dizzy Gillespie.
Mr. MOODY: Uh-huh.
GROSS: You were very close with Dizzy Gillespie. Were you close to him...
Mr. MOODY: Yeah.
GROSS: ...when he died?
Mr. MOODY: Yeah, I--yeah. We were with him. I had him in my arms. There
was--Jon Faddis was there.
GROSS: The trumpeter.
Mr. MOODY: Yeah, Jacques Mooyel(ph) and his son, John Motley(ph) and
myself, you know. There were five of us in there with him when he passed.
And you know what's funny? I told Jon--I said, `Jon, you mark my word, 10
years from now, there are going to be 50 people in the room with Dizzy
Gillespie,' you know? You know? And there was no music playing. There was
nothing. I mean, Diz was just--he was just sitting there, but, you know,
trying to breathe deep, trying to get his breath. And his eyes were closed,
you know what I mean? And--yes, he never opened them and finally he took the
last one and that was--you know--so, yep, that was it, man.
GROSS: Was he conscious toward the end? Did he know that you were there?
Mr. MOODY: Well, the night before he knew that we were there. The night
before--because Michael Ungo(ph) and myself, we went to see him, and we said
(scatting), and he tried to mouth (scatting) and then the thing he did was he
took his finger and put it up to his lips and made his--tried to make his jaws
go out like he usually did--you know how he would do? You know. And--but he
was too weak. But we smiled, you know, and all like that, and I said,
`Michael, let's go, man. We'll come back tomorrow.' I said that to Michael
Ungo, you know. And so, you know, then when I went back the next day--like he
was in bed that night, and then when I went back the next day, he was sitting
up. They had him in a chair sitting up and he was, you know, trying to
breathe. So anyway, that--yeah, but, I mean, it--I guess it's not the same,
nothing is the same anymore without Diz, man. Yeah.
GROSS: But you must feel like you owe so much of your career to him because
he gave you your first job and then you played with him off and on for so
Mr. MOODY: Yeah, he did when I was 21 years old, first gig. Yep. Yep. And
even now, like I tell people that, when they ask me, they say, `Well, what do
you remember of Diz?' You know, I mean, there are many things, and what
happened is sometimes I'll say, `Ah, that's what he meant.' You know? It
might be--because everywhere that I've gone in the world, no matter where it
was, I was there first with Diz. Diz took me everywhere first, man, you know?
I go to Africa, you know--there's Sweden, Germany, France, all except Paris.
I went there first alone. But then after that, everywhere else, it was with
Diz. And now when I go to those places, and I'm going, boy, I say, `Oh, man,'
you know? And for the longest time, I used to call my wife--I used to call
Linda, my honey, and tell her, says, `Honey, I called you and you weren't
home.' You know? She says, `Honey, I've been home all day.' I said, `Well,
but I called'--and then I'd say the number. And she'd say, `Honey, that's
GROSS: Oh, wow.
Mr. MOODY: Yeah.
GROSS: James Moody, recorded in 1996. Here he is with Dizzy Gillespie's
band. I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
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Commentary: Best books list spans the globe
TERRY GROSS, host:
Our book critic, Maureen Corrigan, goes around the world in less than 80 days
in her year-end wrap-up.
My best books list of the year 2000 rises in the Far East, and slowly tracks
its way westward.
British writer Kazuo Ishiguro's novel "When We Were Orphans" dazzled me with
its deft homage to the golden age of British mystery, as well as its fluid
transitions between realistic and hallucinatory styles. Set chiefly in
Shanghai, during a period stretching from the early decades of the 20th
century through World War II, "When We Were Orphans" recreates the riotous
swirl of cultures that once characterized this most Moorish of Chinese cities.
Loss and regret are Ishiguro's signature themes. In "The Remains of the Day,"
he ruminated on the folly of one man's lifelong emotional restraint. In "When
We Were Orphans," his hero holds nothing back, and still loses all.
Contemporary Shanghai is the setting for Ch'iu Hsiao-Lung's superb mystery
"Death of a Red Heroine." Hsaio-Lung was born in that city, became a poet and
translator, and is now a professor of Chinese literature at Washington
His hero, Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai police bureau, is also a
poet in his spare time, and what's more risky in contemporary China, a
believer in poetic justice. When the corpse of a strangled woman turns out to
be that of a celebrated model worker whose personal life, Cao discovers, was
far from exemplary, Cao bucks Communist cadre opposition to crack the case.
What's so brilliant about this novel, besides its hard-boiled, intricate plot
and subtle characterizations is its vivid picture of China in the 1990s, on
the verge of an historic shift into capitalism. Entrepreneurs, Cao observes,
were springing up like bamboo shoots after a spring rain. "Death of a Red
Heroine" may only be a humble detective novel, in contrast to the many
histories, autobiographies and works of fiction that have been published in
recent years about China, but it does what detective fiction often can do
best: It captures the details, the grit of everyday life. As Chief Inspector
Cao learns, sometimes you can't think in categories. Sometimes, even the
lowly oyster of genre fiction produces a matchless pearl.
We'll have to pick up the pace here, as we move westward.
The everyman's edition of "The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh" reclaims 38
of his stories, lots of wonderful, long-out-of-print pieces, as well as some
of Waugh's juvenilia and satirical cartoons. All are awash in pink gin and
Waugh's inimitable wit.
"Several Deceptions," by contemporary British writer Jane Stevenson, is the
kind of clever, atmospheric book I'm always wishing were waiting for me on the
table beside my La-Z-Boy at home. Each of the four novellas that makes up
this paperback collection aims in an O. Henry-ish surprise, an unforeseen
narrative pop that leaves a reader feeling simultaneously giddy and doltish.
Let's cross the big puddle now and take a look at "The Little Locksmith," by
New Englander Katharine Butler Hathaway. "The Little Locksmith," which was
republished this year by the Feminist Press, may just well be the strangest
memoir I've ever read. Hathaway was born in 1890 to a well-to-do family,
contracted spinal tuberculosis when she was five, and spent the next decade
strapped down on a hard bed, her head encased in a leather halter attached to
an iron weight. Her affliction alone, however, is not what makes her memoir
so remarkable. Rather, it's her lyrical, yet frank erotic sensibilities.
Hathaway is a polymorphously perverse writer. Practically everything and
everyone she describes arouses her and her reader.
The circular list began in the East with a book with `orphans' in its title.
And so it sets in the Far West, with another book about orphans. Linda
Gordon's "The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction" is a spellbinding narrative
history, the kind of rigorous, yet vastly readable work that other academics
only dream of writing. Deservedly, it won this year's prestigious Bancroft
prize for historical writing. Gordon unearths a long-forgotten story about
abandoned Irish-Catholic children in turn-of-the-century New York, who were
sent out to Arizona to be adopted by good Catholic families. The hitch was
that those families turned out to be dark-skinned Mexicans. What ensued was a
custody battle that went all the way up to the US Supreme Court. The
astonishing story Gordon recovers engages big, vexed intellectual questions
about race, class and gender in a dramatic, accessible fashion. Gordon also
treats readers to a gripping but unsentimental tale about daring public
assertions of female authority, and the force of female desire. In the
tradition of the finest historians, Gordon makes us appreciate how very
complex the truth of the past--and its cast of characters--really is.
GROSS: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University.
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
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