This fourth volume of the invaluable Woody Shaw
live sets unveiled by the High Note label is an
especially precious gem, for it showcases the
trumpet master's mellow side with a charged
insistency. While we would see more of Shaw's
fine handling of standards towards the end of
his life in 1989, there's no second-guessing
the joie-de-vivre of his presentation here.
Recorded in concert at San Francisco's acclaimed
Keystone Korner in the Fall of 1981, the set is
an impeccably relaxing, yet highly-spirited array
of standards and original material. With the
group of trombonist Steve Turre, pianist Larry
Willis, bassist Stafford James, and drummer
Victor Lewis, Shaw formed a unit of gifted
artists who could glide the music on a lyrical
jet stream, or power each jam into higher gear
at a moment's notice.
While this unit did not brandish the sheer muscle
so resplendent on Columbia's epic STEPPING STONES,
it becomes clear that the subtler sway of the
brass frontline carried an irresistible might
all its own. As the fine work of this series'
Volumes 3 and 4 -in particular- reveal, this
sound is one to be reckoned with.
Listen to Judi Singh's sashaying sure-stepper,
"The Time Is Right"; heard here in its elemental
glory without the well-meaning but overripe
arrangements of the studio rendition. Everyone
has fun here, being both expressive and succinct.
Try the liquid fire of Shaw's searing "Opec"
for proof of how hard the brass king could
swing with purpose.
Speaking of fun, let your ears taste the sweet
nectar of Shaw's inspired mutework on Benny
Carter's classic "Where Lights Are Low", along
with the fresh zeal with which he embraces "It
Could Happen To You" and the ever-saucy "Bye
This album is the first to feature Shaw's sound
on muted trumpet, and it's a welcome treat. While
the compositional turf and the mute itself is a
clear nod to Miles Davis, the sound and thrust
is pure Woody Shaw... right to those eye and
ear-popping intervals that no one else can
navigate through quite as well.
No imitations here. The sound is a standard-bearing
call all its own, full of homage while clearing
its own way for all to enjoy.
Dare we add that this album is naturally smooth
Jazz?!! Artificial sweeteners not permitted where
void by taste.
Great Music. Treasure it well.