By Fernando Gonzalez
Saxophonist James Moody, who died on December 9, 2010 of pancreatic cancer, was not only an extraordinary musician, but also a man of uncommon grace and generosity. Tonight, his life will be honored at the Blue Note in New York City in “A Celebration of Love and Life In Honor of James Moody.”
In 2005, Moody and his wife Linda, created the “James Moody Scholarship Endowment” at Purchase College, N.Y., and in 2010, even as he was battling his illness, they started “The James Moody Scholarship Fund for Newark Youth” for Moody’s hometown of Newark, New Jersey.
“We created the scholarship to give kids a chance to have the musical education that I never had,” he once explained. “Education is the key to everything.”
A true all-star cast including Kenny Barron, Paquito D’Rivera, Claudio Roditi, Roy Hargrove, Lew Tabackin, Jimmy Heath, Roberta Gambarini, Frank Wess, David Sanborn and many others, with Master of Ceremonies, Bill Cosby, will appear at the Blue Note in tonight’s “A Celebration of Love and Life In Honor of James Moody” to benefit “The James Moody Scholarship for Newark Youth.”
Even in his 80s, already an NEA Jazz Master, Moody was still striving to get better.
“My goal in life, “ he used to say. “Is to be able to play better tomorrow than I play today. My mother instilled in me to be better tomorrow than we were today. Don’t sit back and say ‘I’m OK,’ because if you do that, you’re dead. There is always something to learn, always. Look for it.” And he wanted to make sure some talented kids would have the opportunities he didn’t have.
“A Celebration of Love and Life In Honor of James Moody” takes place tonight at the Blue Note, in New York City. For tickets call (212) 475-8592 or visit bluenotejazz.com
Photo by Tony Gieske.