Viewing: Humility - View All Posts


"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future. Concentrate the mind on the present moment, and do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds, and shine."

"Happiness is not a memory but a reality. Reality is neither past nor future but only now. NOW is the greatest time there ever was."
~Nicholas Payton

"Yesterday I was a dog. Today I'm a dog. Tomorrow I'll probably still be a dog. So why not just be happy?"


When I was at Berklee in the 80s, the Boston jazz community was teeming with talented trumpet players.

There was the brilliant INGRID JENSEN, who had the freshest sound in town, the legendary HERB POMEROY, a lyrical master of bebop, and the ultramodern TIM HAGANS, a harmonically adventurous improviser of the Woody Shaw school. DAVE BALLOU was known for his pitch-perfect intonation and musicality, JEFF STOUT for his uncanny way with a standard, and KEN CERVENKA for his inventive spontaneity. GREG HOPKINS could break your heart with a ballad, while the always soulful KENNY RAMPTON made the trumpet sing like no other. There was also the spirited ROY HARGROVE, a musical chameleon steeped in Blue Note tradition, the explosive ANDY GRAVISH, who channelled Freddie Hubbard at will, and TONY THEWET, a playful prankster with a gift for infectious island rhythm.

The scene was inspiring, to say the least, but it could also be quite intimidating. I was playing trumpet more than flugel in those days, and trumpet players tend to be a bit competitive by nature. Nevertheless, I tried to learn something from everyone and carve out a niche for myself.

Inevitably, whenever I grew confident about my place in the pecking order, I'd hear someone new who blew my mind.

In those moments, I felt like someone who had stumbled into the world of Highlander holding nothing but a pocket knife.

Like the time I worked on Brandt #6, a challenging etude for trumpet.

I had to sweat the thing for weeks before I could make its awkward intervals sound even remotely musical.

After I don't know how many hours in the practice room, I was finally ready to play the piece for my teacher. Sure enough, the hard work had paid off.

I was feeling pretty good about myself until the trumpet player in the adjacent studio began to mimic what I'd just played, only effortlessly, by ear, at a brighter tempo, and doodle tonguing it like Clark Terry.

But what really took the wind out of my sails was when he started cycling the melody through the keys.

I decided I'd better go over there, find out who it is, and pay my respects. Apparently no one had ever told this guy that playing the trumpet is difficult.

And that's how I met GREG GISBERT.



James Moody's Grammy win tonight is a beautiful thing, but long overdue.

The last of the original generation of bebop masters, Moody died in December at age 85, just two months too early for him to appreciate the honor.

Nevertheless, the award decision is heartening.

It affirms that we in the jazz arena, unlike the rest of the youth-obsessed music industry, celebrate our pioneering elders above all.

And it proves -- believe it! -- that melody, warmth, swing and soul are still relevant.

In fact, they may just be what matters most.


Some of my favorite nuggets of James Moody wisdom...

Moody on Race:
"There's only one country. Mankind is one. All that stuff about different races—about your kind and my kind—that's bullshit."

Moody on Technique:
"It's a challenge constantly. I've had a saxophone for over 50 years and I still can't play it. Some days I wake up and say, 'Hello,' and the saxophone says, 'I don't know you.' But I keep at it."

Moody on Bandleading:
"A lot of times when you go somewhere to work, they put you with people who they think will work well together. That doesn't go. A band is like a marriage. Can't nobody pick a wife for you. You've gotta do it yourself. Only you know what you like, man."

Moody on Ego:
"Blessed are those who run around in circles, for they shall be called Big Wheels."

Moody on Music:
"Practice, work hard, but then let God take over. Jazz is a spiritual music. Remember, when you play music, you're praying. And most of all, learn to love yourself."

James Moody Discography