Sunday, December 12, 2010


Moody was a giant hero of mine. I loved his music and I loved the fact that he was from Newark, New Jersey, which when I was a boy we thought of as our "downtown," our city, and where my mother and maternal grandparents came from and grew up and where I had lots of cousins and friends and where I went to high school and played football and dated girls and played some of my earliest music gigs and just hung out.

He also wrote a tune called "Last Train from Overbrook," which was almost like my theme song when I was young. Overbrook was a mental hospital they put James Moody into in the 1950s, a common tactic by the authorities for jazz musicians who also happened to sometimes be on illegal drugs (and also happened to be geniuses, ala Bird et. al.). I worked at Overbrook when I got out of over four years in the service. My father was part of the Essex County Democratic machine back in those days and helped get me a job as a "recreational assistant" in what was closer to the institution in the classic film SNAKE PIT than what exists now.

I felt honored (in an inexplicable way, I'm sure for those who I worked with) because I was working where Moody had once lived and where he wrote some great tunes, or right after he was released, including "Last train from Overbrook." The miracle is, he outlived all those who harassed him in his younger years for being the "black" genius he was and just died at 85.

I am grateful for all the great music he left us. I couldn't find a video of him performing "Last Train" but here are two great vidz, one of him talking about his life and music, and another of him playing with the kind of inspiration that so impressed me back when I first encountered him and his music and ever after.


AlamedaTom said...

I hear you brother. Moody was special. I saw him live many times and consider each one a privilege. Moody was one of the best reed men ever, but many folks forget that he did some of his most beautiful work playing flute and alto flute. He was the best on that axe 'cept for maybe Hubert Laws (eat your heart out Herbie Mann and other pretenders.)

~ Willy

Lally said...

Tom, yes indeed, terrific flute (I think there's some in the background on that first vid) but I'd have to cite Eric Dolphy as the master. His "You Don't Know What Love Is" on LAST DATE is a flute tour de force unequaled.