Phil Woods and Bill Mays: Woods & Mays (2011)
Putting two musicians of this caliber in a room and recording the results is a surefire recipe for success. Pianist Bill Mays and saxophone icon Phil Woods have little to prove at this point in their respective careers and their music isn't about defying expectations. Both men, on the contrary, carry the reputations that they do because they live up to the very expectations that surround them. On this duo set, Woods and Mays engage in classy conversation that flow like fine wine at a dinner party, and they build their music on a foundation of mutual respect and musical comfort.
Mays occupies the piano chair in Woods' quintet, and their shared evenings on the bandstand have helped to create a telepathic bond between them. While their performance sensibilities and musical taste are in line with one another throughout this nine song program, their connection seems to go even deeper than that. These men know each other so well that they seem to finish each others phrases ("Do I Love You") and know exactly what the other one is thinking.
Swing feels, whether with a relaxed gait ("All This And Heaven Too") or a bit more spunk ("The Best Thing For You Would Be Me"), underscore a number of these tracks, but no two songs are delivered in the same fashion. Some numbers point to a contrast in styles from the two musicians, as demonstrated by Woods' lovingly delivered lines and Mays' bluesy solo work on "All This And Heaven Too," but both men seem to be cut from the same cloth more often than not. They exhibit a class and charm befitting their subject on Woods' "Hank Jones" and they paint with Billy Strayhorn-like colors during "Danielle."
This pair's quick witted repartee is on display when they trade solos on "Blues For Lopes" and the cheerily prancing "I'm All Smiles," but they also know how to take things easy, as demonstrated on "How Long Has This Been Going On?." Mays provides the entry way into the song with a tender piano introduction and Woods' playing oozes over the piano like warm butter on a roll. While this proves to be the longest track on the album, it seems to go by in the blink of an eye. Woods & Mays is everything to be expected from two artists of their stature, proving that the "sound of surprise" isn't always as important as the sound of quality from two known and respected quantities.
Track Listing: All This And Heaven Too; Blues For Lopes; Danielle; Do I Love You?; Hank Jones; I'm All Smiles; How Long Has This Been Going On?; The Best Thing For You Would Be Me; Our Waltz.
Personnel: Phil Woods: alto saxophone; Bill Mays: piano.