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Phil Woods and Quincy Jones have shared a personal friendship and musical camaraderie for almost half a century, and Woods' newest album, This Is How I Feel About Quincy, is neither a spurious nor spur-of-the-moment homage but one whose sincerity is as clear as its meticulous planning and execution. And thanks to the remarkable talents of Woods, Jones and Woods' nine-piece "little big band," it's also one of the year's more impressive scrapbooks of swinging, straight-down-the-fairway jazz.
As Jones has achieved a highly successful career as a promoter and music business executive, one must be reminded from time to time of the marvelous songs he wrote or co-wrote while he was a young man in the trenches playing trumpet and struggling to keep a big band alive, and later as an in-demand Hollywood film composer/arranger. There are a dozen of them here, including such gems as "Stockholm Sweetnin'," "Quintessence," "For Lena [Horne] and Lennie [Hayton]," "The Midnight Sun Will Never Set," "Jessica's Day" and "Birth of a Band," each one carefully re-scored by Woods, who contributed a gleaming nugget of his own, the melodious "Q's Delight" ( a play on his friend's given name, Quincy Delight Jones Jr.).
Woods' colorful charts amplify the ensemble's poise and power while leaving generous blowing space for an exemplary group of soloists, especially those in his working quintettrumpeter Brian Lynch (who arranged Jones' "The Pawnbroker"), pianist Bill Charlap, bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin, the last two of whom were charter members of the Phil Woods Quartet in 1974. Lynch is featured on the groovy "Meet Benny Bailey" and complements Woods on several other selections, while Tom Hamilton (tenor sax) and Nelson Hill (baritone) have their say on the dynamic "Birth of a Band."
Woods' solos are always a pleasure to hear, as they have been for so many years, and he is especially persuasive on the ballads, "Quintessence," "Midnight Sun" and "Lullabye for Jolie," the last written by Quincy for the Count Basie Orchestra and dedicated to his daughter, where Woods plays clarinet to enhance Hill's flute, Bobby Routch's French horn and Lynch's muted trumpet. A word should be said about the band's vigilant rhythm section, whose unwavering governance provides a secure home base from which to soar and spread one's expressive wings.
It's hard to say which is more praiseworthy, Quincy's memorable music, Phil's fabulous charts or the band's bravura performanceperhaps it's a three-way deadlockbut this much can be said: small-group jazz simply doesn't get much better than this.
Track Listing: Stockholm Sweet'nin'; The Quintessence; Meet Benny Bailey; For Lena and Lennie; The Pawnbroker; Hard Sock Dance; The Midnight Sun Will Never Set; Q's Delight; Evening in Paris; Jessica's Day; Birth of a Band; Lullabye for Jolie; Belly Roll (68:20).
Personnel: Phil Woods, leader, alto sax, clarinet. The Quintet -- Brian Lynch, trumpet, flugelhorn; Bill Charlap, piano; Steve Gilmore, bass; Bill Goodwin, drums. The Little Big Band -- add Nelson Hill, tenor, baritone sax, flute; Tom Hamilton, tenor sax; Bobby Routch, French horn, flugelhorn; Rick Chamberlain, trombone, euphonium.