Among the many pleasures of reviewing Jazz is the discovery of recordings such as this one by relatively unknown yet enormously talented players like the late Chris Woods. Modus Operandi was recorded in January 1978, about seven years before Woods’ death. Our hat is off to Delmark for reissuing the session, which cooks agreeably from start to finish. It consists of four original compositions by Woods and one (“Modus Operandi”) by Ernie Wilkins with alternate takes of three to raise the playing time to a respectable 62:52. Woods, who played in a number of bands whose music was labeled R&B, and recorded only once under his own name before this ( Somebody Done Stole My Blues, also on Delmark), sounds a bit like Sonny Red or Lou Donaldson on alto, while his dark baritone reminds me of Cecil Payne. He plays alto on “Modus,” “What That” and “Scufflin’ Along,” baritone on “Monsieur Le Boit,” flute on the ballad “My Lady.” Woods shares the limelight generously with trumpeter Bobulinski, an able technician whose solos, even though derivative, are always easy on the ear. The first 40 seconds or so of “Modus Operandi” is especially interesting, as it sounds like a warm–up (the way horns and rhythm get the kinks out and make sure they’re in tune) before Boyd’s ride cymbal sets the tempo and everyone gets down to the business at hand, which is bop–based Jazz that swings hard and often. If there’s a downside it dwells in the recording quality, second–rate even for 1978, which does McNeely’s tinkly piano no favors and makes Wilson’s bass solo on “What That” sound almost like — believe it or not — a tuba. On the other hand, there’s no surface noise to remind one that this was once on vinyl. A note to Delmark: If you have more wonderful treasures like this one sequestered in your vaults, bring ’em on!
Track listing: Modus Operandi; Monsieur Le Bois in Paris; What That; My Lady; Scufflin’ Along; Modus Operandi (alt.); Monsieur Le Bois in Paris (alt.); What That (alt.) (62:52).
Chris Woods, alto and baritone sax, flute; Greg Bobulinski, trumpet, flugelhorn; Jim McNeely, piano; Roland Wilson, bass; Curtis Boyd, drums.
The world of jazz is a musical space with a complex history and haunting appeal--a space to revisit and celebrate. It’s that
amazing moment when you hear a really great song you haven't heard in years and you still know the tune and every word.