Jemeel Moondoc was born in Chicago in August 5, 1951. Although his parents were not musicians, Moondoc's great-great grandfather was a minstrel who sold moonshine cure-alls, sang and danced. Moondoc studied piano and clarinet at age ten, played in the Concert Band and studied Architecture at Chicago Vocational High School and later played in rhythm and blues bands. Following High School, Moondoc began studies in Architecture and began gigging around Chicago with various local groups. After hearing the music of Cecil Taylor and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Moondoc began to focus his creative energies toward the study of music. He became inspired by the freedom of Taylor's music. He then sought opportunities to play the alto saxophone with Taylor's Black Music Ensemble at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and later at Antioch College, where he became a featured soloist. His tenure with Taylor lasted two years endowing Moondoc with the necessary experience to play in the New York City jazz scene.
After arriving in New York City in 1972, Moondoc immediately stated rehearsing the Ensemble Muntu, a quintet he co-founded with trumpeter Arthur Williams, the group included William Parker-bass, Mark Hennen-piano and Rashid Sinon-drums. This group's debut performance was at Sam Rivers' Studio Rivbea. Moondoc and Muntu made their first impressive impact in New York City. In 1977, Moondoc took this group into the recording studio, and recorded First Feeding, on Moondoc's own label Muntu Records. On this recording Rashid Bakr replaces Rashid Sinon on drums. Between 1976 and 1979, Muntu as a working band fluctuated between a quintet and a piano-less quartet. In 1979, Moondoc recorded his second album on Muntu Records, The Evening of the Blue Men, featuring William Parker, Rashid Bakr and Roy Campbell Jr. The Muntu groups were very much in the Taylor mould, but Moondoc remained open to other influences as well. 'One for Ornette' on Judy's Bounce, Soul Note 1051, accounts for only the most obvious; his playing style sits somewhere between Ornette's country wail and Jimmy Lyons street corner preaching. One of the great bands of the Loft Era, Muntu's five albums and wide touring sowed seeds for the revitalization of American Free Jazz. In the 1980's Moondoc made a series of recordings for Soul Note Records (including Judy's Bounce with Ed Blackwell and Fred Hopkins) and led his big band, The Jus Grew Orchestra, for a number of memorable seasons on the Lower East Side, at venues such as the Neither/Nor Book Store, the Nuyoricans Poets Café and the 1st on 1st Bar and Grille. In the early 1990's, Moondoc became absent for a while from the spotlight when he found himself a single father and also finishing his studies in Architecture, yet, this did nothing to dampen down, but only fueled his musical fires.
In 1995 Moondoc began working with John Voigt and Lawrence Cook and the trio went on to record two CD's for Eremite Records. (Tri-P-Let, Eremite MTE01 & Fire in the Valley, Eremite MTE08) With Tri-P-Let, Moondoc became the first artist to record for the now renowned Eremite Records, and is the most featured artist on that label. Moondoc appears as a member of the Denis Charles IVtet on Captain of the Deep, Eremite MTE09, recorded live at the Zuid-Nederlands Jazz Festival, Eindhoven, Holland, in May of 1991, released in 1998. In 1999, Moondoc performed in duo with his long time contemporary, William Parker at the Fire in the Valley Festival, recorded for Eremite Records, New World Pygmies, Eremite MTE020. In 2001, Eremite released Spirit House, Eremite MTE029, featuring Moondoc's 'Jus Grew' Orchestra, recorded live at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2000, and Revolt of the Negro Lawn Jockeys, Eremite MTE028, a quintet featuring Khan Jamal-Vibes, Nathan Breedlove-trumpet, John Voigt-bass and Cody Moffett-drums, recorded live at the 1999 Vision Festival, New York City. In 2002, Eremite released a double CD, New World Pygmies Vol. II, Eremite MTE030/31, with William Parker and Hamid Drake, recorded live on tour November 2000, at University of Wisconsin, CD1 in duo, Moondoc and Parker, and at the Velvet Lounge in Chicago, CD2 in trio, Moondoc, Parker and Drake. In April 2002 this trio toured Scandinavia and recorded, Jemeel Moondoc Trio, Live at the Glenn Miller Café, Vol. I, on Ayler Records aylCD-026, released summer 2002.