Dièry Prudent, Producer, "Moody's Mood for Love: the Story of a Song"
It’s said every biographer sees something of himself in his subject, and that’s certainly true in the case of Dièry Prudent and James Moody. Like Moody, Dièry was born black and underprivileged and, like Moody, he’s managed to improve his life circumstances exponentially – and to travel the world in the process – on the basis of nothing more or less than his own talent and drive.
Since 1994 Dièry has been developing a feature-length documentary, "Moody's Mood for Love: the Story of a Song," devoted to Moody, his musical hero and creative mentor. It is his first film.
As a young Brooklynite in the Seventies, Dièry first heard King Pleasure’s “Moody’s Mood For Love,” then the theme song to Frankie Crocker’s super- popular radio show on New York’s WBLS-FM.
"Each night on the dot of 8:00, it streamed from every open window, boombox or passing car," Dièry says. "You could set your watch to it. When it came on people would sing along, couples would get that look, and everyone smiled. The song changed the vibe in a room in a way I couldn't put my finger on. It was a thing."
Curious about the world of adult romance, “Moody’s Mood” struck him as a model of unfettered sophistication and irresistible savor-faire. “I learned it word-for-word, note-for-note, every riff and drum beat,” he recalls. “I was painfully shy – but you knew that everything coming out of your mouth when you sang that song was gonna be a winner with the honeys."
At the University of Mass., Amherst in the early Eighties, Dièry got more deeply into jazz and into Moody in particular. “I loved Dizzy, Sonny, Coltrane, and Miles,” he says, “but Moody’s music was so personal. I felt like he was talking to me, just pouring his heart out. Listening to Moody, I felt connected to him.”
Dièry met Moody in person for the first time after a show at Harvard’s Sanders Hall in 1983. “He gave me a warm smile, a big hug, a kiss on both cheeks...” Dièry says. “He exceeded all my expectations in a brief encounter.”
Influenced by recurring creative and social themes he found in literature and jazz, Dièry pursued an academic year of political science study in Paris. That stretched into a two year residency, during which he worked as a translator for BMG/Novus Records, at a time when Moody was releasing his first album in over a decade. They met for the second time backstage after a concert; Moody remembered him.
Back in New York in 1991, Dièry hung out with Moody for the third time during one of the musician’s week-long stands at Sweet Basil. By then, he'd learned a lot about Moody’s life: the musician’s disability (Moody was hard-of-hearing), his experience of racism, his victory over alcoholism, his superhuman devotion to his music, his spiritual humanism, his musical ambassadorship and epic globetrotting. While there were volumes dedicated to other jazz giants, Dièry's research on Moody revealed mostly liner notes, press notices and interviews.
An idea was born.
Though he'd never made a movie before, Dièry began to think that there was a great untold, film-worthy story in Moody’s life. “Moody was a great spirit, but he was human, too. As a youth he was dealt a raw hand and he remained on guard the rest of his life,” Dièry says. “After all, this was a guy who wore a special glove and put razor blades on the handle of his horn-case to stop some wise-guy from stealing it. But onstage, backstage, in person, he couldn't be sweeter.”
Dièry’s decision to make a film about Moody reflected his appreciation of Moody’s story, his lifelong love of cinema and his grounding in journalism at the Boston Globe in the late Eighties. It also reflected his friendship with filmmaker Eric Marciano, which began in the early Nineties. Shortly after they met, Dièry persuaded Eric to team up with him on the Moody film. The pair filmed their first interview with the artist in New York in 1994, continuing to film the jazz legend for the next 16 years until shortly before his death in December of 2010.
Meanwhile, like most independent filmmakers, Dièry never gave up his day job. He was publicity director for the Globalvision production company in the early Nineties, when they were producing the PBS television show “South Africa Now” and the independent documentary “Nelson Mandela: Free At Last.” He then spent four years in PR and Institutional Relations at New York’s LaGuardia Community College (CUNY).
In 1998 Dièry started Prudent fitness, his high-end fitness training/consulting firm: a decision that allows him to express his athleticism, independence, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.
In the year before Moody died, Dièry and Eric signed a documentary-licensing agreement with the musician and with Linda Moody, his wife, who survives him. The filmmakers are now working to finish this film. They've shot many hours of Moody performances and interviews with Moody and his famous admirers (including Jimmy Heath, Chuck Mangione, Dr. Billy Taylor, Ed Bradley, and Harry "Sweets" Edison).
Dièry and Eric are now starting post-production and seeking the financing necessary to shoot a few more key interviews, edit, release and distribute the film. Their goal is to create a fitting tribute and an enduring document: a love note to a love song, first interpreted by an underrated American youth of color, that's touched people's ears, hearts and minds around the world for the last 60 years.