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James Moody's Birthday Party Moves to Washington

James Moody with Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band James Moody with Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band
I hope James Moody enjoyed his 80th birthday party. He should have it lasted all year! There was a whole series of events, including a week-long celebration at The Blue Note in New York, in March, featuring Moody's group with a slew of guests, an inaugural fund raising concert for the James Moody Jazz Scholarship Endowment at SUNY Purchase in April, and another celebration at The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles with MC Bill Cosby, The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band, Nancy Wilson and others. There was James Moody Day in San Diego, a visit to the White House, and more.

Not to be outdone, the Kennedy Center put together its own celebration, and did it in its own inimitable fashion. They were wise enough to involve the Gillespie All-Star Band, under the direction of Slide Hampton. It was his association with Dizzy that really set the hallmark on Moody's career, allowing his unique talent to flourish during the decades of their association. Now, under Hampton's leadership, the Gillespie All-Star band has become perhaps the finest tribute band functioning today. It boasts some of the finest jazz players in the country, with a mixture of NEA Jazz Masters such as Moody, Hampton, Frank Wess (unable to attend this evening owing to health problems) and Jimmy Heath, along with some of the finest younger players such as Antonio Hart and Steve Davis. And, of course, the trumpet section has to be outstanding; Randy Brecker, Gregory Gisbert, Frank Greene and Claudio Roditi make sure of that. Then there is the writing, shared among Hampton, drummer Dennis Mackrel, Jimmy Heath, and the late Gil Fuller and Ernie Wilkins. Above all, their is a certain je ne sais quoi, perhaps Dizzy's spirit hovering over the project, that makes the music live and breathe in a way that transcends the idea of a historical tribute.

I caught the band some months ago at their earlier Kennedy Center appearance, but it was by no means too soon to hear them again, especially as they were joined by guest artists Roy Hargrove and Paquito D'Rivera (another NEA Jazz Master), and the quite extraordinary Roberta Gamborini who graces the band's performances with her outstanding vocal work.

Then, of course, there was Moody. He gave us a little of his tenor saxophone, a little of his flute, and his ever-popular vocalizing on the de rigueur "Moody's Mood For Love," all delivered with his irrepressible good humor. Above all, he gave us his very presence, the embodiment of the last half-century of jazz during a career that was summarized between numbers by the evening's MC, actor Danny Glover.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. And, as Moody shows no sign of slowing down, I look forward to his 90th birthday!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: James Moody with Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band
  • Concert Date: 12/10/2005
  • Subtitle: Culmination of Year-Long Celebration
  • Venue: Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts
  • City State Country: Washington, DC
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