Friday, August 03, 2018

Woody Shaw - Tokyo '81 (Elemental Music, 2018)

Trumpeter Woody Shaw was still riding high after a stint as straw boss for Dexter Gordon's popular group and his own exceptional run of albums at Columbia Records when he landed in Tokyo for a performance with Stafford James on bass, Tony Reedus on drums, Mulgrew Miller on piano and Steve Turre on trombone and percussion. After a spoken introduction, the group opens with Shaw's "Rosewood," and the trombone and trumpet harmonize together with the rhythm team stating the brawny theme and staking out space for a stellar bowed bass solo. The horns trade excellent features before the group comes together for a tumultuous conclusion. There is a very long version on Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight" that doesn't waste a note, as Shaw plays an aching version of the melody framed by spare piano, building his solo in an open and patient manner. Turre's trombone statement is poised and thoughtful along with subtle brushed percussion, soon making way for Shaw to take an unaccompanied trumpet solo that is spellbinding in its beauty. "Apex" returns to the storming uptempo format, with the full band swinging right out of the gate and the strong rhythm section playing with slashing cymbals supporting scorching trumpet from the leader which gives the music a relentless feeling. The piano, bass and drums unit have a sparkling feature, cascading and tumbling forward leading to a quick and nimble full band outro. They return to ballad territory on "From Moment to Moment" where gentle trumpet and brushes add just the right touch to the music, leaving an opening for growling trombone and the music is accented with yearning and pathos. "Song of Songs" is a lengthy closer to the Shaw quintet's set, stretching out with lush piano and bowed bass creating interesting textures. Shaw enters, playing in a stoic fashion, nodding to some swirling trombone as he reaches out with a towering trumpet solo. The group roils beneath him, creating first rate post bop jazz, and Shaw climbs down from the mountaintop, handing the baton to Turre who seems stunned by his boss's solo, sounding tentative at first, but gradually regaining confidence because the rhythm section just won't quit and things pull together as Shaw returns for an epic full band closing. There is an extra track on this disc, "Sweet Love of Mine" by the Paris Reunion Band of which Shaw was a member. They play bright and punchy septet swing with some powerful trumpet moments for Shaw and an interesting section where he trades phrases with drummer Billy Brooks. Overall, this is an excellent and valuable release, the sound quality isn't exactly pristine, but the standard of the music overwhelms those concerns and makes this a must have for any Woody Shaw fan. Tokyo '81 -

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