‘Moody’s Mood for Love,’ James Moody

James Moody, during a performance of "Moody's Mood for Love," in 1989.

James Moody, during a performance of “Moody’s Mood for Love” in 1989.

When James Moody improvised a sax solo on “I’m in the Mood for Love” in a 1949 recording session in Sweden, little did he know that he was writing a melody he’d be singing for a good portion of his life.

Eddie Jefferson based his 1952 song “Moody’s Mood for Love” on that solo, and after King Pleasure covered Jefferson’s song, and had a hit with it, it became associated with Moody forever — as well as one of the most famous songs in the genre of vocalese, which features scat-like singing of real words, not nonsense syllables.

At first, Moody hired Jefferson to sing it with him; later, he started singing it himself. Below is a particularly warm and charming version of it filmed at a 1989 concert with Dizzy Gillespie and his United Nations Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall in London. Moody was part of the orchestra, playing saxophone, but Gillespie cedes the stage to him for this song. Though Gillespie is seen at the start of the clip, he doesn’t play on the song, which features Moody along with pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Lee and drummer Ignacio Berroa.

Moody died in 2010; the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s annual TD James Moody Jazz Festival is named after him.

New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday last year. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we are marking the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, for almost a year — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. We started in September 2014, and will keep going until late in the summer.

If you would like to suggest any songs to be included, please let me know in the comments section underneath the video. And if you want to see the entire list, either alphabetically or in the order the songs were selected, click here.

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