Music News

Woody Shaw

The brilliant hard-bop trumpeter Woody Shaw went largely unsung in the course of his short, troubled life, but his work is now enjoying a welcome revival -- thanks in large part to the efforts of the uncompromising reissue label 32 Jazz. In the last three years, producer Joel Dorn has repackaged on CD no fewer than seven rare albums Shaw recorded (mostly on Muse) in the '70s and '80s. Combined with a peerless three-CD reissue set on Mosaic called The Complete CBS Studio Recordings of Woody Shaw, they comprise a vivid and long-overdue record of his art and affirm the notion, long held by jazz aficionados, that Shaw belongs squarely in the modern trumpeter pantheon with the likes of Clifford Brown (his idol), Freddie Hubbard (for whose playing his was sometimes mistaken), Kenny Dorham and Lee Morgan.

For those unfamiliar with Shaw's work, Givin' Away the Store 2 is an ideal introduction -- nine top-of-the-line tunes (drawn from seven previously issued CDs) that capture both the lyricism and the fire in his playing. For confirmed Shavians, meanwhile, this sampler will represent a distillation of the man and suggest his wide-ranging alliances, which included stints with the bands of Max Roach and Horace Silver and recording sessions with McCoy Tyner, Dexter Gordon, Chick Corea and Eric Dolphy, among others. On the burner "Cassandranite" and the brooding "Tetragon," for instance, he teams with tenor-sax great Joe Henderson, and the forward-looking trombonist Steve Turre appears on three of these tracks. "Tapscott's Blues" is a bow to the late, great Los Angeles pianist Horace Tapscott, and "Symmetry," on which Shaw is joined by alto saxophonist Anthony Braxton and drummer Joe Chambers, is a showcase for solo daring.

Shaw's posthumous popularity is fraught with ironies. Miles Davis, not known for cheerleading, recommended his fellow trumpeter to recording giant Columbia in the late '70s, but when the three superb albums Shaw recorded for that label sold poorly he was cut loose. That blow, coupled with the explosion of electronic jazz fusion and Shaw's notoriously difficult moods, put his career into an eclipse from which he never fully recovered. In 1989 he lost an arm in a mishap involving a New York subway train and died later that year, at 45. It has taken almost a decade for the originality and beauty of his work to be fully recognized, and 32 Jazz has led the parade. Unless you already have a large Shaw collection, Givin' Away the Store 2 is an essential.

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Bill Gallo
Contact: Bill Gallo

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