Trumpeter and educator Dr. Bob Lark, who directs the DePaul University Jazz ensemble, has had a long musical association with the great alto saxophone master Phil Woods. This resulted in several performances and recordings with both the University Ensemble and their own working quintet. In May of 2006, Woods came to Chicago to celebrate the release of the first Bob Lark/Phil Woods Quintet album In Her Eyes
(Jazzed Media 2006). Woods also completed a weekend gig at Chicago's world famous Jazz Showcase where along with Lark (who here performs on the flugelhorn), Jim McNeely (long-time pianist for Woods), bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin are heard on a series of live performances documented for Live at the Jazz Showcase
The album captures the group's pulsating efforts in churning out dazzling reads of four dynamic standards and three Lark originals. They're all arranged as Neil Tesser's liner notes state: "each of them custom tailored to different aspects of Woods' musical personality." As good as the previous quintet collaboration was, this recording in some respects seems to eclipse their first effort. Maybe the live audio and audience reactions provide that special intangible quality that fills this recording with electricity and intensity.
Lark composed the blistering "Ravenswood," "Mad Dan's" and the lovely ballad of "Cathy's Song," which features a sensuous and expressive saxophone phrasing from Woods, quickly followed by a matching flugelhorn chorus from Lark, resulting in one captivating beautiful piece of music. Bassist Gilmore lays down prominent bass lines on the Miles Davis number "All Blues" with Lark providing a Miles-like impersonation on a mean flugelhorn bow. On Sammy Cahn's classic "Its You or No One," it is Woods who delivers an especially hard boppish alto romp, setting up Lark's razor-sharp blowing of his instrument.
The live setting ends with two Cole Porter standards given tender treatment from Lark, with exquisite light playing on "Everytime We Say Goodbye" and "What Is This Thing Called Love," which also provides a demonstration of McNeely's ample chops on the piano. Live at the Jazz Showcase culminates a very memorable and sparkling performance taped for posterity, from a formidable group of players led by jazz luminaries Phil Woods and Bob Lark. Together once again, they forge another impressive musical statement of contemporary jazz that critics and discerning jazz audiences alike will savor.
Personnel: Bob Lark: flugelhorn; Phil Woods: alto saxophone; Jim McNeely: piano; Steve Gilmore: bass;
Bill Goodwin: drums.