Sunday, July 28, 2013


A declaration of what an impassioned jazz trumpeter Woody Shaw was is available in a limited edition seven disc set from Mosaic Records. It's titled “Woody Shaw the Complete Muse Sessions,” and the price is $119.00. The set is worth every freaking dime, and it has the recordings Shaw made for Muse Records during his 13 year run with the company 1974 to 1987. As a leader, he cut some primo post-bop music for the company.

Born on Christmas Eve 1944 in Laurinburg, North Carolina, Shaw started out playing the bugle. He turned to the trumpet as a pre-teen. His father was a gospel singer. He encouraged Shaw to become a musician. Shaw made a name working with top post-bop and free-jazz wailers such as Eric Dolphy, Pharaoh Sanders and Andrew Hill. At 44, Shaw died from kidney failure. He left a mammoth body of work. His Muse sessions were some of his best work and represents a significant chunk of his legacy. 

“Woody Shaw the Complete Muse Sessions” has a ton of music. If you plan to take it on in one sitting pack a big lunch. A companion booklet written by Shaw’s son Woody Shaw III is included. Shaw III discussed  his father’s history on top of explaining the relevance of each Muse session. 

The great thing about the sessions is you witness Shaw’s growth from a wet-behind-the-ear improviser to a post-bop maverick to an interpreter of jazz standards. Unfortunately, “Solid“ (disc six) made up of some  well-known standards from the American Songbook is disappointing. It showed Shaw’s soft side, playing some ballads, which wasn’t his strength. Also, Shaw seemed uncomfortable with the standards. 

Shaw was undeniably daring. And he staffed his bands with jazz musicians who pushed him to unimaginable improvisational heights. For example, on “Moontrane" (disc one), and “Love Dance” (disc two) trombonist Steve Turre, saxophonist Azar Lawrence were on the frontline with Shaw. The blowing was so goddamn good it could’ve made a nun swear like a construction foreman.

But “Moontrane” and “Love Dance weren't the best sessions. That honor belonged to “The Woody Shaw Concert Ensemble Live at the Berliner Jazzstage” (disc three). Shaw, trombonist Slide Hampton, and saxophonist Rene’ McLean blew fire. The people in the front row probably wore fireproof clothing for protection. 

On “The Iron Men” (disc four), Shaw was in full-blown free jazz mode, blowing due North with free-jazz deities saxophonists Arthur Blythe and Anthony Braxton, The collective improvising on "Song of Songs," one of Shaw's originals could cause multiple orgasms.

Most post-bop fans probably have the recordings in “Woody Shaw the Complete Muse Sessions”.  But for people wanting insight into Shaw's genius and legacy the box set would be a wonderful starting point. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013


The smartest career move Christian McBride made was signing with Mack Avenue Records in 2008. The jazz bassist has made his best music there. In 2012, his big band album, “The Good Feeling” won a Grammy. Early this year, he released the second album from his outstanding quintet Inside Straight “People Music”. 

McBride designs his projects for his band-mates. McBride’s new album “Out There” is set for release nationwide August 6th. It’s a trio date with drummer Ulysses Owens Jr.—one of the finest trio jazz drummers you’ll come across who swings in High Definition--and pianist Christian Sands. On “Out There,” Sands is the predominate voice. 

For three years, he’s performed off and on with McBride. On “My Favorite Things” and “Who’s Making Love,” you get to experience how good Sands is. McBride isn’t a ball-hog, so he likes to put the spotlight on his sidemen. But on “Out There,” he steps into the spotlight more than on his other Mack Avenue albums. His solos on “East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon)” and “Cherokee” are memorable.

At the 2012 TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival, jazz bassist Dave Holland unveiled his jazz fusion quartet pianist Craig Taborn, guitarist Kevin Eubanks, and drummer Eric Harland. Holland is associated mostly with free-jazz. He has a history in the world of jazz fusion, having played with trumpeter Miles Davis. Holland participated in Davis’ fusion gem “Bitches Brew”. On September 3rd, Darre2 Records releases Holland’s new album “Prism”, 

As far as jazz fusion albums go, “Prism” is a first-class one. Cuts like “The Watcher,” “Spiral” and the “Color of Iris” are crowd favorites. Chances are Holland will go on about “Prism” being a new sound and a new direction for his music and this band being the prefect vehicle to convey that. Yes, this is an awesome band and “Prism” is a damn sweet fusion outing.  However, it’s misleading to call what Holland does here a new direction.  Holland revisits ground he covered when he performed with Davis.

Jazz pianist Jimmy Amadie is a fighter. There isn’t a more accurate way to sum him up. Four decades ago, Amadie was a rising star and he had more work than he could handle. He played in bands led by Red Rodney, Charlie Ventura, Woody Herman and Mel Torme’. Tendinitis developed in Amadie's hands and he had to stop performing. He stayed active teaching private piano lessons and writing piano textbooks. After a series of hand surgeries, he was able to play again. 

He recorded eight albums but he didn’t perform live again until 2011 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. August 13th, TP Recordings releases “The Jimmy Amadie Trio Live! at the Philadelphia Museum of Art”. For the date, Amadie reunited with drummer Bill Goodwin and bassist Tony Marino, veterans with sharp jazz acumen. 

They swing elegantly on jewels from the American Songbook like “There is No Greater Love,” “Softly As The Morning Sunrise,”  and “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”. According to the liner notes, by jazz scribe Neil Tesser, Amadie hands were hurting like hell during the concert. That’s hard to believe given how his hands raced up and down the piano on “On Green Dolphin Street and “52nd Street Theme. This is a jazz trio album devoid of any imperfections.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Bob Mover
My Heart Tells Me (Motema)
The prominent saxophonist Phil Woods endorsed “My Heart Tells Me,” alto saxophonist Bob Mover's new two-disc recording. Like Woods, Mover’s blowing has a downhome bop feel.  On the first disc, Mover sings, and he blows on disc two. His singing is incomparable to his blowing. It’s still a mystery why some jazz saxophonists believe they can sing. Anyway, Mover’s blowing is strong enough to stand on its own merit.  Go straight to disc two for proof of that ability. Its Mover’s blowing that makes “My Heart Tell Me” a good recording. But had he left the singing on the editing room floor “My Heart Tell Me” would’ve been supremely good.

Peter Leitch
California Concert (Jazz House)
The concert took place at California State University in 1999. It was one of jazz guitarist Peter Leitch’s favorite dates as a bandleader. Leitch had pianist John Hicks, bassist David Williams, and drummer Billy Higgins in the band. Because the recording is a re-mastered bootleg, the sound quality is poor. But the playing is outstanding, especially Hicks solo on the opener “Relaxin’ at Camarillo” and the closer “A Blues For Ivan Symonds/Theme”. When Higgins died in 2001 and Hicks five years later, they left bulletproof legacies.  Arguably, one of the sweetest jazz drummers ever to grace this planet, Higgins swung above sea level throughout “My Heart Tells Me”. Leitch has a dual nature on guitar, a careful touch on slow tempo cuts. On blazing tempos, he’s a gangster.