When I used to do jazz television interviews from the Blue Note in Manhattan, a guest one early afternoon was James Moody. (He was very disinclined to use his first name.) While the crew was setting up, Moody was in the next room communicating lovingly with his tenor saxophone. The flow of pulsating sound was so beautiful-yes, that’s the word-that I said to myself, “This is jazz!”
Through the years, in or out of jazz, the most generously open spirits I’ve known were Dizzy Gillespie and his longtime sideman (and eventual co-leader) Moody. Not that Moody was free of anger; he felt great animosity toward Jim Crow, which he considered still among us. But interpersonally, Moody, like his music, radiated the challenges and joys of continuous self-discovery.