Here's an object lesson in compatible, rather than competitive, blowing. For The Rev and I, Phil Woods (b.1931) stacks his distinctive, sweet-toned alto against Johnny Griffin's (b. 1928) recognizable, growling tenor. Even though these two have previously played together in Quincy Jones 1959-61 big band, Thelonius Monk's 1967 nonet and on 1984's Ole Dude and the Fundance Kid (uptown), they're a heady pair that listens closely to one another and work quite well together. Teamed with the always perfect Cedar Walton on piano, Peter Washington on bass and Ben Riley on drums, these two veterans breeze naturally through a lively set of swinging bop numbers.
There's plenty of good blowing and solid musicianship to be heard throughout. The up-tempo numbers rock with these two accomplished reed players at the helm. Included are Wood's sprite title track, a lightly Latinate that refers to a minister friend of the altoist, not Griffin (and features an overdubbed Woods comping tastefully on the Wurlitzer keyboard). Also of note are Walton's appropriately Bird-like "Hand in Glove," a natural feature for Wood's fine Parkernomics, Woods' heated "Before I Left" and Hal Galper's jumpy "Loose Change" (the disc's best track).
The slower numbers show how expressive these two can be - on their own and even together. Check out the Ben Webster homage of Ellington's "All too Soon" (wherein Griffin suggests Dexter Gordon more than Webster) and Wood's pretty "Dutch Morning," wherein the altoist is at his Charlie Parker best, nicely offset by Griffin's muscular tenor and Walton's pristine accompaniment.
Recorded in January 1998, The Rev and I catches these fine jazz veterans in a variety of interesting dialogs mostly because, even after all these years they have much left to say that's worth hearing. Check it out.
Songs:The Rev and I; We Could Make Such Beautiful Music Together; Hand In Glove; All Too Soon; Red Top; I'm So Scared of Girls When They're Good Looking; Loose Change; Dutch Morning; Before I Left.
Players:Phil Woods: alto sax (electric piano on "The Rev and I"); Johnny Griffin: tenor sax; Cedar Walton: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Ben Riley: drums; Bill Goodwin: percussion on "The Rev and I."
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.