Even though Phil Woods jokes at every opportunity that, "Emphysema is nature's way of telling you that you're playing too fast, the alto saxophonist still brings a special touch to any recording date, as he remains one of the most inventive improvisers on his instrument with a sound that is always recognizable within a few seconds. Woods is also no stranger to playing in small groups with a second altoist, having recorded a number of sessions with Gene Quill and Lee Konitz, taking part in various alto summit recordings with several fellow players and appearing on Bud Shank's Bouncing with Bud & Phil (Capri, 2005).
During a 2005 trip to Europe by the NEA Jazz Master, fellow alto saxophonist Benjamin Koppel invited Woods to join him for this recording, with drummer Alex Riel's top-notch group (bassist Mads Vinding and pianist Heine Hansen) fueling the two reedmen. Though decades younger than his special guest, Koppel is inspired by his presence.
The leader contributes seven originals for the session, most of which feature Woods soloing ahead of Koppel. Highlights include the laconic ballad "Mother's Song, the playful blues "36-14 (A Bop Result) with a punchy Woods solo, along with the strutting mid-tempo title track, which is introduced by the altos in unison and showcasing inventive solos by Woods, Hansen and Koppel. The lush, reflective ballad "Before the Concert initially suggests a moment of quiet meditation alone in the dressing room, though the lively solos exchanged are more like animated conversation and shared laughs by a group prior to going on stage.
Woods chose two standards that have been a part of his repertoire for decades. The two altoists open "How High the Moon by themselves, trading off complementary exchanges in a setting that simmers slowly to a boil. Woods is afire in "Autumn Leaves, demonstrating that the onetime "Fundance Kid still has plenty to say now that he's the "Old Man. Koppel clearly benefited from bringing Woods on board and is a promising young talent who should go far.
Track Listing: Chess Party; Mother's Song; 36-13 (A Bop Result); How High The Moon; Pass The Bebop; K.O.(I'm Fishing In The Seine); Autumn Leaves; Before The Concert; Razorbill Relaxin'.
Personnel: Benjamin Koppel, Phil Woods: alto saxophone; Heine Hansen: piano; Mads Vinding: bass; Alex Riel: drums.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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