She is diminutive in stature, but not in humility and kindness. Standing visibly humbled, she does her best to hold back the tears. The late Mrs. James Moody talked about “love bullets”, and certainly her late husband had several loaded love guns. It was just before the second set, and the venerable jazz powerhouse ensemble was just getting started. Newark was being treated to a weeklong jazz festival, its first in over fifteen years. The culmination of the event being last Friday’s performance entitled, “For The Love of Moody: A Jazz Celebration.”
James Moody is Newark, and Jazz on the saxophone wouldn’t be what it is today without James Moody. He was, as one performer described, “a musician’s musician.” Moody frequently played with Dizzy Gillespie, but stood all his own.
I arrive, and take my seat while the Manhattan Transfer scatted their way through a performance accompanied by the legendary David Sanborn. George Benson makes a cameo, and the show appears more impromptu than rehearsed. Performers are walking on, while others are walking off. The musicality is unquestionable, and I don’t mind the constant shuffling that takes the form of substitutions in a basketball game. Thereafter, Paquito D’Rivera joins the cast already on stage, and they deliver a brilliant rendition of “Moody’s Groove.”
Hip-Hop is heavily influenced by jazz, yet I don’t see many young adults amongst the crowd. Groups like Gang Starr, Digable Planets, Tribe Called Quest, The Roots Crew, and the like all have jazz samplings to their sound, yet this fact is almost completely lost in the Drake/Lil’ Wayne generation.
It is the second set, and I become enamored by a Kenny Barron piano solo. I am, however, absolutely stricken by George Benson and Janis Siegel’s rendition of “Moody’s Mood for Love.”
As all the performers took their bows, I thought of my first concert at the NJPAC. I was a first year in law school, and my Property class had created an easement of misery upon my person. I was invited by a classmate to go see the Buena Vista Social Club, another legendary troupe that would be lost to many of the Drake/Lil’ Wayne persuasion. Thereafter, my law school commencement took place at the NJPAC, and I also took my father to his first ballet there. It has become my place to spend and experience special moments, and I could only hope other Newark residents find themselves nestled within the dark warmth of this theater as well.