JAZZ / DIRK SUTRO : Legendary Sax Man Not Moody About New Love

Legendary sax man James Moody moved to San Diego in April and had his first gig in his new hometown Wednesday night at Elario’s.

Moody came west from Jersey City to live with his new wife, Linda, a real estate agent here. The two tied the knot April 3 in a ceremony at Faith Chapel in Spring Valley. Dizzy Gillespie served as best man and played a few pieces, including the solo from “Con Alma” as the couple walked in.

“I love her as big as the sky,” said Moody, still madly in love and poetic as always. He first met his wife during a gig at Catalina’s in Los Angeles. They didn’t see each other for about a year, then they hooked up again when Moody came to town to play at Elario’s last December. Sparks flew and Moody says he had a hard time touring a short time later without her.

“I called her every day. My hotel bill in Egypt for the week. . . . Wow! I was sending her two or three faxes a day.”


Moody recently spent two weeks in Hong Kong playing The Jazz Club. His new album “Sweet and Lovely,” dedicated to the new missus, is scheduled for an August release. At Elario’s, where he will play through Sunday, he’ll be backed by Sherman Ferguson on drums, Bob Magnusson on bass and a pianist (perhaps Harry Pickens, Randy Porter or Art Resnick).

Guitarist Lee Ritenour, who hits San Diego for Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay series Friday, feels strong ties to the music of Brazil. The best cuts on his last album “Festival” blend Brazilian melodies, rhythms and vocals with the driving funk of Marcus Miller’s bass and percussion supplied by Brazilian Paulinho Da Costa.

“Rit Colors,” scheduled for fall release, also has some Brazilian flavor. Ritenour went to a funky studio in Salvador, in the Brazilian state of Bahia, to record a singer named Gonza Guinha for one cut. Most of the album’s vocals are handled by Phil Perry, who will play with Ritenour in San Diego, along with Bob Wilson (former drummer in the fusion group Seawind), Ernie Watts on sax, Tim Landers on bass and Dave Witham on keyboards.

Ritenour, also known as a top ‘70s studio musician for his work with Herbie Hancock, Steely Dan, Stanley Clarke and many others, has been a commercial success for years, but “Festival” is his hottest album yet. It has sold more than 200,000 copies since its release last October.


With the earlier “Rio” and “Rit” both gold or close to it (500,000 copies), Ritenour is, along with Dave Grusin, one of the most commercially successful artists on the GRP contemporary jazz label, founded by Grusin and partner Larry Rosen.

Talking Wood is a San Diego band built around the warm sounds of the African slit drum and is one of several bands scheduled to play the Second Annual Jazz Iz Forever, an all-day outdoor music festival this Saturday at the Educational Cultural Complex, 4343 Ocean View Blvd., in Southeast San Diego.

Last year’s concert was dedicated to local jazz singer Ella Ruth Piggee, who died of cancer. This year’s is a tribute to Dr. Danny Scarborough, former head of the Afro-American Studies Department at San Diego State University and the director of the school’s Black Repertory Dance Co. Scarborough, a prominent local educator, died of AIDS two months ago.

Other bands that will appear during the 12-hour celebration, which begins at 8 a.m., include Hollis Gentry’s Neon, Forecast, Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham and their Sweet Baby Blues Band, Swell, Reel to Real, Escola Brazilian Experience, Immediate Freedom Latin Jazz Ensemble, Glenn Horiuchi Quartet, Ayana Hobson Trio, Charles McPherson Jr. and the Lila Smith Trio. The band War (“Cisco Kid,” “Slipping Into Darkness”) is a special guest.


Percussionists Bill Thompson and Gregory Blakney form the nucleus of Talking Wood. Besides the slit drum (which is played with mallets), Talking Wood also incorporates imbira (African thumb piano), gourd rattle, African claves, tom-toms, and, from Java, hank lungs (bamboo percussion instruments).

The heavily rhythmic sound includes a lot of improvisation. Nonstop performances typically last a half-hour or longer. Talking Wood hits the stage a 9 Saturday morning.

RIFFS: Hank Young, the bass player who once backed Earl “Fatha” Hines, will lead a group Friday evening at 5:30 at Magee Park on Carlsbad Boulevard, three blocks north of Elm in Carlsbad. . . . Also on Friday, Fattburger will play at the Chula Vista Shopping Center’s lunchtime concert series. . . . San Diego pianist Mike Wofford joins pianist Harry Pickens for the second session of Pickens’ “The Art of Improvisation” series next Wednesday at 7 p.m., at The Athenaeum in La Jolla. . . . Tonight is the Gaslamp’s monthly “Arts and Jazz Stroll,” a self-guided tour of galleries, artists’ lofts and jazz venues. Pick up a program at Faith Nightingale Gallery, 535 4th Ave., in the Gaslamp Quarter.