Born in Georgia on March 26, 1925, and raised in Newark, New Jersey, Moody took up the alto sax, a gift from his uncle, at the age of 16. Within a few years, he fell under the spell of the deeper, more full-bodied tenor saxophone, after hearing Buddy Tate and Don Byas perform with the Count Basie Band in Newark.
He launched his career in the late 1940's with Dizzy Gillespie's big band. In 1948 he recorded his first lead album, James Moody and His Bop Men for Blue Note Records. In 1949 he moved to Europe where he recorded Moody's Mood for Love, which became a huge hit in the States. In 1963 he rejoined Gillespie and performed in the trumpeter's quartet until the early 1970s, when he began a 10-year stint in the Las Vegas Hilton Orchestra.
He resumed recording in 1985 and received a Grammy nomination for his playing on Manhattan Transfer's Vocalese album. In 1990 Moody and Gillespie received a Grammy nomination for their rendition of Gillespie's "Get the Booty." Moody's latest recording is Moody's Party, celebrating his 70th birthday at the Blue Note on Telarc Jazz.
Moody plays the soprano, alto, tenor and flute with a respect for tradition, but delights in discovering new musical paths, making him one of the most expressive and enduring figures in modern jazz today.