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Jason Keiser: Shaw's Groove

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Jason Keiser: Shaw's Groove
The "Shaw" in guitarist Jason Keiser's album Shaw's Groove is the late great Woody Shaw, one of the more innovative and influential jazz trumpeters of the twentieth century. Even though he lived only forty-four years (he died in May 1989), Shaw was an important role model whose sweeping influence remains strong to this day, both as a player and composer.

The first four songs on Shaw's Groove were written by Shaw himself, among the many he composed while performing and recording with such luminaries as Willie Bobo, Eric Dolphy, Bud Powell, Johnny Griffin, Dexter Gordon, Horace Silver, Jackie McLean, Chick Corea, Booker Ervin, Herbie Hancock, Bobby Hutcherson, Art Blakey, George Cables and many others. Played back-to-back, they prove that Shaw's writing was almost as admirable as his playing.

To undertake this earnest tribute, Keiser employs a sextet with a slightly unusual lineup: trumpet (of course), baritone sax, bass, drums and two guitars (Keiser and John Stowell). Erik Jekabson sits in for Shaw, baritone Aaron Lington shares the front line, and bassist Dan Robbins and drummer Jason Lewis keep the rhythm on course. As for Keiser and Stowell, they parcel out both melodic and rhythmic assignments. To unschooled musical ears, there are only two ways to play guitar: the right way and the wrong way (those who have been exposed to rock, heavy metal and the like will no doubt grasp the allusion). Keiser and Stowell have chosen the right way.

Keiser has also chosen several of Shaw's better tunes: "Organ Grinder," "Zoltan," "The Moontrane" and "Katerina Ballerina" (the last of which brings to mind the Gershwin brothers' "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess) to open the session, preceding Shaw and Ronnie Mathews' breezy "Blues for Woody," Larry Young's ill-defined "Obsequious," Matthews' ethereal waltz, "Jean Marie," and Keiser's strangely ponderous "Shaw's Groove." Each of them is respectable; Shaw's themes are simply more engaging.

What we have is an album that starts in high gear (Shaw), then stumbles on its stratagems (everything else). While everyone plays well enough and is no doubt committed to the enterprise, in the end Shaw's Groove is a step or so less engaging than it might have been. Worth a listen, though, if only for Shaw's admirable compositions.

Track Listing

Organ Grinder; Zoltan; The Moontrane; Katerina Ballerina; Blues for Woody; Obsequious; Jean Marie; Shaw's Groove.

Personnel

Aaron Lington
saxophone, baritone

Album information

Title: Shaw's Groove | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: OA2 Records


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