Chiaroscuro was taping a live performance of Jay McShann's trio when lo and behold, in walked Phil Woods. Flip Phillips and David "Fathead" Newman all of whom happened to be on the S/S Norway for the 14th annual Floating Jazz Festival. The trio then lent their considerable talents to the session, with no rehearsal. Apocrypha or not, it makes for an interesting story and outstanding jazz music. The title of the album Hootie!
is what McShann is known by to his friends. Starting out as a boogie woogie player influenced by James P. Johnson, after hearing Pete Johnson play and Joe Turner sing, he shifted to the blues. But like Pete Johnson, McShann realized that it was important to play all kinds of music which he has been doing for more than 60 years. And this familiarity and skill are readily apparent on this album. Along the way he learned to sing. One of the gems of the session is his rendition of "Kewpie Doll", working with Phil Wood's alto. Intentional or not, Woods is featured on Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite". Parker had an enormous impact on Woods. And, as all jazz fans know, it was with McShann's orchestra that Parker got his first big break. This McShann/Woods meeting is a happy confluence of historical episodes.
Flip Phillips makes his presence known on three of the cuts but none shows off his tenor more then the head arrangement, "Flippin the Blues". Not only are Flip's saxy ruminations a joy to listen to, but McShann and consummate bassist Keter Betts take it upon themselves to engage in a blues conversation making this track one of the highlights of the album.
Long time member of the Ray Charles' organization, Texas tenor David "Fathead" Newman goes two for two with the McShann tunes he's up at bat for - and both hits are home runs. The interplay between McShann and Newman on "Moanin' Blues" is even more incredible if it is unrehearsed as advertised, as Newman engages McShann with lengthy quotes from "Things Ain't What They Used to Be". But these guys have been playing this music for so long, they probably wouldn't know what to do at a rehearsal. When the CD was recorded, McShann was 81, Philips 82 (!), with Woods and Newman just a couple of kids at 65 and 64, respectively, and none of them have lost a beat. Jazz lovers must listen to a CD like this every now and then just to be reminded how jazz is supposed to be played.
Tracks:Cruisin' the Blues; Moonlight in Vermont; Kewpie Doll*; Yardbird Suite*; Medley: You're Driving Me Crazy/Moten Swing; Flippin' the Blues#; All of Me#; As Time Goes By#; Sweet Georgia Brown#; My Chile; Forward March; Crazy Legs and Friday Strut+; Moanin' Blues+; Closing