Saxophonist James Moody dies of pancreatic cancer

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Moody is best known for his 1949 hit "Moody's Mood for Love," an interpretation of the 1935 ballad "I'm in the Mood for Love."...

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — Jazz saxophonist James Moody, who recorded more than 50 solo albums as well as tunes with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Lionel Hampton and B.B. King, has died. He was 85.

Moody died Thursday at San Diego Hospital after a 10-month battle with pancreatic cancer, his wife, Linda McGowan Moody, said.

Moody is best known for his 1949 hit “Moody’s Mood for Love,” an interpretation of the 1935 ballad “I’m in the Mood for Love.”

“My heart is heavy with the news of the passing of my mentor, colleague and brother James Moody,” friend and collaborator Quincy Jones said in a statement Thursday.

“James Moody had a sound, an imagination and heart as big as the moon. He was the quintessential saxophone player, and his ‘Moody’s Mood for Love’ will forever be remembered in jazz history side by side with Coleman Hawkins’ classic ‘Body and Soul,’” Jones said.

“James Moody was one of the people who allowed me to stand on his shoulders when I was coming up,” Jones wrote. “And there can never be a value placed on that. So much of who I am today is because of who James Moody was to me back then.”

“Today we’ve lost not only one of the best sax players to ever finger the instrument, but a true national treasure,” Jones added.

Moody’s version of the song, recorded in Sweden in 1949, was elected into the Grammy Awards’ Hall of Fame in 2001 and has been recorded by a number of people, including Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Rod Stewart and Queen Latifah.

”’Moody’s Mood for Love’ is a national anthem,” said actor Bill Cosby, a longtime fan and confidante.

Moody sang the song with Nancy Wilson on an episode of “The Cosby Show” in the 1980s. Cosby also featured the song in the 2004 movie “Fat Albert.”

“He has taught me integrity, how to express love for your fellow human beings, and how to combine and contain manhood and maturity,” Cosby told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Moody was nominated for four Grammies. He received a 1998 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters award and a 2007 Kennedy Center Living Jazz Legend award. He has also been inducted into the International Jazz Hall of Fame.

His last album, “Moody 4B,” was recorded in 2008 and released in 2010, receiving a Grammy nomination earlier this month for best jazz instrumental album..

Moody was “a titan of our music” who was “just impeccable, his musicianship, his soul, his humor,” trumpeter Wynton Marsalis said.

Moody, born in Savannah, Georgia, joined Dizzy Gillespie’s all-star big band in the 1940s. He was featured in the first episode of the PBS series “Legends of Jazz,” and walked an invisible dog in the 1997 film “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” when he was cast by longtime fan Clint Eastwood.

Moody performed on stages around the world, including the White House, Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl and London’s Royal Festival Hall. His last public performance was Jan. 28 at a Grammy-sponsored show in Seal Beach.

Moody’s talent wasn’t confined to jazz — he was a member of the Las Vegas Hilton Orchestra in the 1970s, sharing the spotlight with everyone from Glenn Campbell, Liberace and the Osmonds to Lou Rawls and Elvis Presley.

Many of those artists sang “Moody’s Mood for Love.”

“When I made that record, I was a tenor saxophonist playing alto for the first time on record and I was trying to find the right notes, to be truthful. People later said to me: ‘You must have been very inspired when you recorded that.’ And I said: ‘Yeah I was inspired to find the right notes!’” Moody told the San Diego Union-Tribune in February.

A public funeral service is scheduled Dec. 18 at Greenwood Memorial Park, followed by a public celebration of his life at Faith Chapel in Spring Valley.

Moody is survived by Linda Moody, his third wife; daughter Michelle Bagdanove; sons Patrick, Regan and Danny McGowan; brother Lou Watters; four grandchildren and one great grandson.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.