CD review

Woody Shaw Quintet – At Onkel Pö’s Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1979 Vol.1

Woody Shaw Quintet – At Onkel Pö’s Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1979 Vol.1
(Jazzline D77070. CD review by Mike Collins)

A steady stream of live recordings from the ’70s and ’80s at Onkel Pö’s Carnegie Hall in Hamburg, have been appearing on Jazzline records. This latest, a 1979 set from trumpeter Woody Shaw’s Quintet, is a gem.

The line up is what was Shaw’s regular band at the time, with Victor Lewis on drums, Stafford James on bass, Onaje Allan Gumbs on piano and Carter Jefferson on saxophones and they were on sparkling form on this particular evening. Shaw’s reputation still shimmers now, and this set gives plenty of insights into why that is. The material is firmly rooted in the bop traditions of the music, with Shaw seemingly able to reference and weave in the most contemporary of harmonic twists and rhythmic phrasing with an easy flexibility and clarity.

This is a long set and captured over two CDs. They launch straight in with Coltrane’s Some Other Blues and the propulsive energy of the band is electrifying. Shaw spools out chorus after chorus, firing off dazzling phrases, or digging in and really swinging. All The Things You Are is taken at slow swing tempo, but it’s a platform for incendiary soloing from the whole band, with a long, thrilling, solo passage from pianist Gumbs. Then there are two Shaw originals, Stepping Stone, a burner and In a Capricornian Way, a rolling open groove, before closing the set with a Gumbs original It All Comes Back to You, a relaxed funky groove.

This is not a just showcase band for the leader however, everyone is firing on all cylinders. On All The Things You Are, Jefferson really takes flight, spiraling and soaring over the familiar sequence. Stepping Stone is taken at a hectic pace and they all burn. The themes are carefully crafted with the band on point with each twist and interlocking riff, but it’s when they cut loose and blow over a driving pulse or surf a flurry of ideas from the rhythm section that the temperature really rises.

This is a great reminder of just what a consummate player and improviser Shaw was. His clarity of expression; instinct for breaking out of piling mazy pattern on mazy pattern into swaggering, blues inflected lines; effortless, fluent phrasing, all are thrilling, and his band were matching him at every step. This set may be 40 years old, but If straight-ahead, swinging jazz is what you like, this album is sure to thrill.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblog

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