Moody's Mood Was Always Happy
Moody and Jefferson remained a team until 1963, when Moody rejoined Gillespie and performed in the trumpeter's quintet for the remainder of the decade. By the 1970s, Moody, by then a father, had tired of the musician's road life and moved to Las Vegas where he worked for seven years backing such big-name entertainers as Elvis Presley, Ann-Margret, Liberace, Milton Berle, Bill Cosby, Lou Rawls, Ike and Tina Turner, Glenn Campbell, Connie Stevens, the Everly Brothers, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Eddie Fisher and Bobby Gentry. Moody returned to New York in the early 1980s and started recording again, receiving a Grammy nomination in 1985 for Best Instrumental Performance for his work on the The Manhattan Transfer's album, Vocalese. He signed with RCA Victor, for whom he recorded Something Special (with pianist Kenny Barron) and Moving Forward before recording with Gillespie again (Sweet and Lovely) in 1989. In March 1995, Moody's 70th birthday party, hosted by Bill Cosby at New York's Blue Note Club, was recorded by Telarc Records and released as Moody's Party: Live at the Blue Note. Moody followed that up with tributes to Frank Sinatra (Young at Heart, 1996) and Henry Mancini (Moody Plays Mancini, 1997). In his last decade, Moody recorded Homage, Moody 4A and Moody 4B, the last of which was nominated for a 2010 Grammy Award.
In 1997, Moody had a small but memorable part in the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, filmed in his hometown of Savannah and directed by longtime fan Clint Eastwood. The following year he was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. As for "Moody's Mood for Love," it was entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001. And speaking of Halls of Fame, no such society worth the name is complete without the inclusion of James Moody, one of the greatest jazz saxophonists who ever lived.
Farewell, Dr. T
Pianist / composer/ educator / raconteur Billy Taylor, who died December 27 at age 89, once recorded an album with his trio titled Music Keeps Us Young, and if ever anyone lived by that precept it was Dr. T. Whatever group he was in, the effervescent Taylor was usually the youngest kid on the block, mentally if not physically. Music was a big part of his life, but not the only part. Educated and articulate, he was interested in all aspects of life, which also helped keep him thinking young. In 1968, Dr T, as he liked to be called (he earned a doctorate in music education from the University of Massachusetts in 1975), was appointed to New York City's new Cultural Council, along with Leonard Bernstein, Richard Rodgers and other prominent leaders in the arts. In 1980 he was a member of an advisory committee that advocated greater support for jazz from the National Endowment for the Arts. Many of the panel's proposals were adopted, and in 1988 Dr. Taylor became a beneficiary when he received a $20,000 NEA Jazz Masters award. Four years later he was given a National Medal of Arts.
Taylor was born in Greenville, NC, and raised in Washington, DC. His father was a dentist, his mother a schoolteacher. Taylor took his first piano lessons at age seven and later studied at what is now Virginia State University. Shortly after arriving in New York in 1943, he began working with tenor saxophonist Ben Webster at the Three Deuces nightclub on 52nd Street, and remained a working musician almost for the rest of his life. One reason for that was his ability to adapt to various styles, from swing to bop and beyond. He formed his own trio in 1951, and within a few years was lecturing about jazz at music schools and writing articles for DownBeat magazine and other periodicals. He later had a long-running lecture series at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Blessed with a marvelous speaking voice, Taylor used it to become a persuasive spokesman for jazz on radio and television. In 1958 he was musical director of an NBC television show, "The Subject is Jazz." A year later he was hired as a disc jockey at radio station WLIB in New York. He moved to WNEW in 1962, returned to WLIB two years later as disc jockey and program director, and later was a founding partner of Inner City Broadcasting, which bought WLIB in 1971. Taylor later found a home at National Public Radio, where he hosted "Jazz Alive" in the late 1970s and, more recently, "Billy Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center" (1994-2002). On television, Taylor served as music director for David Frost's syndicated nighttime talk show from 1969-72, and was a longtime cultural corresondent for CBS Sunday Morning. Meanwhile, he taught courses in music at Long Island University, the Manhattan School of Music and elsewhere. And in his "spare time" he wrote more than 300 compositions.