Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Phil Woods - All About Jazz

Phil Woods review - All About Jazz - New York

Solitude (with DePaul
Univ. Jazz Ensemble)
Phil Woods
(Jazzed Media)

Come Right In
(with Phil Woods)
N. Glenn Davis Quintet
(Jazzed Media)

Bop master Phil Woods has still got all the gusto he
had when he blew into the Prestige studios over 55
years ago. At a weeklong appearance at Dizzy’s Club
last month the alto saxist showed off his effortless
versatility alongside his longtime, similarly grayhaired
rhythm section, swinging to a full house every
set. So it’s no surprise to hear him sounding equally
youthful on this pair of recent releases.

Solitude features a spry Woods fronting Chicago’s
massive DePaul University Jazz Ensemble playing ten
of the saxist’s tunes, recorded over three sessions
during the 2008-2009 school year. From the opening
sand-strewn pulse of “Brazilian Affair” to the
syncopated shout of “Ol’ Dude”, Woods keeps a strong
presence amidst the vibraphones, countless
woodwinds and bass trombones. The students, who
not only mastered the arrangements but also wrote
some of them, provide all the necessary support for
Woods’ bop-based flights while also contributing a
few solid solos of their own. “Song for Sass”, Woods’
tribute to Sarah Vaughan, features a great fluttering
solo from trumpeter Scott Dickinson while bombastic
closer “Mother Time” is highlighted by a confident
solo by vibraphonist Justin Thomas. Woods is
excellent throughout, playing breakneck wails and
great bop lines over the well-groomed collegiate
band’s swing.

Come Right In finds Woods transforming drummer
N. Glenn Davis’ Quintet into a sextet for only three
tunes on his newest release. In between the tight
ensemble works its way through a couple of standards
including a simmering “If You Could See Me Now”
and a collection of hard-swinging originals. The album
opens with “A Different Day”, a Blue Note-indebted
tune of breaks and riffs before eminence grisé Woods
gets first crack at a solo, wailing a way at a spiraling
jaunt through the burning changes. Barreling close
behind him is trumpeter Jack Schantz whose twisting
phrases drive the band even harder, popping up
throughout the record with succinct blasts from his
horn. From those opening three minutes the band
continues to drive for nearly an hour. “Just a Tadd”,
Davis’ tribute to fellow Clevelander Tadd Dameron,
features more alto expertise from Woods while the
bossa “Warm Smile”, with its literal nods to Jobim,
starts off slow before ending in a swinging cacophony
of dueling solos. Overall the album is a confident,
swinging disc. Davis has written some interesting
compositions, which benefit from the intensity of his
bandmates and boosted by the presence of Woods, but
are in no way lost without them.

Phil Woods @ All About Jazz - New York

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