Friday, September 29, 2017

Woody Shaw - The Tour: Volume Two (High Note, 2017)

The talent of the great trumpeter and composer Woody Shaw was realized quite young as a sideman to the likes of Eric Dolphy and Art Blakey. He was comfortable with both the jazz tradition and the notion of freer exploration, which he would explore as a leader and valued accompanist. This set is a compilation of performances recorded in different European cities between 1976 and 1977. The band that Shaw co-led with the drummer Louis Hayes also employed Junior Cook on tenor saxophone, Ronnie Mathews on piano and Stafford James on bass. It is a very good live set that is energetic during both the ensemble passages and some very impressive solos that are woven into the performances. They cover a nice cross section of modern mainstream jazz and hard bop on this album, beginning with the standard “All the Things You Are” which bristles with energy and impressive playing both in the full band passages and in the individual solos which are well conceived and logical. Shaw is one of the great unsung trumpeters of post war jazz and he develops an admirable tone and conceptual framework that is vital to the success of this recording. “A Night in Tunisia” is an inspired choice for this group, recalling the classic Dizzy Gillespie original and the version by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. The rhythm section is hot, developing a powerful motor that drives Shaw as a soloist and the band as a whole to new heights. There is a moody and thoughtful version of Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight” which lowers the place a bit and allows Shaw and the band to build a thoughtful narrative using Monk’s tools to develop an emotional framework the suits both his genius and their talents admirably. “Some Other Blues” is a nice blowing vehicle which blasts out of the gate with a fast theme, opening up running room for punchy trumpet and seriously swinging drums. After a sparkling piano solo, the group comes together for a muscular send off. A powerful rhythmic current drives “Invitation” and serves as an excellent foundation for rippling horns, and particularly a very impressive tenor saxophone solo. Cook stretches out nicely and spontaneously builds a potent statement of great clarity and endurance. Not to be outdone, Shaw takes the baton for a blistering solo of his own, playing with great physical stamina at a riveting tempo. There is a more subtle tempo to “What’s New” in which Shaw uses a softly polished tone to tastefully solo over brushes and spare piano. This ends the set in fine fashion, focusing the listener's attention less on the spontaneous blowing and as on the lyrical acumen that Shaw and the band show in interpreting these selections. Woody Shaw was on the cusp of recognition that he well deserved in the wake of this tour. He would be signed to Columbia Records, producing the classic Rosewood LP among others. This disc shows why Shaw was so admired as a musician, his ability to solo imaginatively at any tempo and power a full band with his ensemble work is on display throughout this recording. The only knock on this album is that the sound quality can get a little rough at times, but the performances are compelling which overrides any aesthetic complaints. The Tour Volume Two - amazon.com

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