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Woody Shaw: Tokyo 1981

C. Michael Bailey By

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That trumpeter Woody Shaw is considered "underrated" may be a considerable understatement. Shaw died at age 44 in 1989, but he managed to release 33 recordings as a leader (27 in his lifetime) and worked in collaboration with Gary Bartz, Art Blakey, Chick Corea, Stanley Cowell, Eric Dolphy and most notably with Dexter Gordon, on his 1976 Homecoming: Live at the Village Vanguard (Columbia). His recording, Rosewood (Columbia, 1978), his first major label release, is considered his masterpiece. Shaw's seamlessly melodic 69 bars of "Rosewood" inaugurates the newly found, unreleased performance from Tokyo, December 7, 1981. This release is a sister to the recently released Dexter Gordon Quartet: Tokyo 1975, appropriate as Shaw and Gordon enjoyed a fruitful musical relationship.

Tokyo 1981 contains six selections from the said performance, augmented by a single performance of the Paris Reunion Band recorded at Den Haag, July 14, 1985. Shaw's brand of jazz was very much a product of the period in which he recorded. The trumpeter favored compositions with complex melodic and harmonic elements. Shaw's tone is lyrical with a hard edge. That contrasts well with the fluid playing of trombonist Steve Turre, evidenced on the ballad "From Moment to Moment." This show is closed with two Shaw originals, the modal-extended "Song of Songs," which as introduced is reminiscent of Lee Morgan's "Search For a New Land," and "Theme for Maxine" composed for Shaw's manager, Maxine Gordon (and wife of Dexter Gordon). "Song of Songs" is an outgrowth of the post-bop pioneered by Miles Davis 15 years before. Tony Reedus's drumming is forward progressive and Mulgrew Miller's piano potently clear in a McCoy Tyner sense. Tokyo 1981 is a worthy addition to the Woody Shaw catalog. Is there more of this music lurking in the shadow?

Track Listing: Rosewood; ‘Round Midnight; From Moment to Moment; Song of Songs; Theme for Maxine; Sweet Live of Mine.

Personnel: Woody Shaw: trumpet, flugelhorn; Steve Turre: trombone, percussion; Mulgrew Miller: piano; James Stafford: bass; Tony Reedus: drums.

Title: Tokyo 1981 | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Elemental Music

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