Music

Phil Woods Quintet: American Songbook II

The music is well worth playing, and the alto saxophone master and his men know how to play it well, freshly.


Phil Woods Quintet

American Songbook II

Label: kind of blue
US Release Date: 2007-07-17
UK Release Date: 2007-07-16
Amazon
iTunes

Sometime within the past fifteen years I saw pretty much this very quintet at the Glasgow Jazz Festival, and that’s how long it's been since I was first impressed by Brian Lynch’s trumpet playing (Jim McNeely rather than the current man, Bill Charlap, was on piano, which dates the festival before 1995), but Bill Goodwin and Steve Gilmore, bassist and drummer, were doing the same beautifully relaxed and swinging thing notable on "Suddenly It’s Spring" on this new set. Phil Woods remains an utter master of the alto saxophone.

They are founding members of a band the notes date back to 1974, prior to which there was an unmechanically very musical Phil Woods European Rhythm Machine with Georg Gruntz, et al. The American Phil Woods Quintet (which used to be a quartet blessed with Hal Galper on piano) is still balm to the ears, Woods at 75 playing better than he did on a fairly recent (very decent) Bill Charlap CD of Gershwin material. I suspect Charlap also plays better on this one than on the Gershwin, though on neither of them does he come anywhere near disgracing himself.

Several of Gershwin's fellows are represented here, or perhaps adapted is a better word, given Lynch’s darker, slower arrangement of the opening "I Remember You", from which Woods emerges into a fresh brisk solo both the trumpeter and the pianist emulate. Perhaps adapted is not, however, a better word, since Woods is quite clear that performances in this series are based on their respective composer's original lead-sheets, with no re-harmonisation for convenience of improvising. This is much along the lines of the Charlap project.

Echoing the style developed seventy years back around Frankie Newton (a singular trumpet master), Lynch has an unusual, softer-toned muted sound on "Careless", doubly a nice choice as a prime improvising vehicle and not a widely known tune: a find.

"Last Night When We Were Young" is a Woods feature, of which he has been a master for a very long time, and reminiscent perhaps more of the older tenor saxophonists than fellow-altoists. There’s a depth and fullness of sound he achieves and sustains when there’s no urgency about delivering hot at speed. It’s always been interesting the way the layers of the unique sound melt into the heat of his playing faster. Especially during Charlap’s solo, "I’ll Take Romance" is distinguished by solo work phrasing across the bassist and drummer’s rhythmic patternings. There's some witty prettiness from the pianist at the end.

"Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" opens with solo trumpet over pace-making piano, playing what some people thought the great stride pianist Willie the Lion Smith called the 'voice' of the composition. Though the Lion was pronouncing 'verse' in a New Joysey accent, voice makes the point, and the Lion might well have gone for Lynch’s delivery on this one, with a vocal quality of articulation all through.

Jerome Kern’s "Yesterdays" has a slowish theme statement, and I should have mentioned before that with some attention to harmonics Woods’s saxophone and Lynch’s trumpet can together sound like more than two. Which is more eco-friendly than electronics. Then, ouch! Woods quotes an inferior and more recent tune called "Yesterday" in opening his "Yesterdays" solo after Steve Gilmore has delivered a pleasing and welcome mellow bass excursion. I liked Charlap’s own recordings, but I'm repeating myself.

There's a staccato opening to the theme-statement on "Come Rain or Come Shine", and again nice part-writing to make the band sound bigger. Bill Goodwin drops a little hand-grenade with his drum-kit before Charlap is into his solo, and the nicely nagging Charlie Parkerisms Woods incorporates in his adventure proceed over a beautifully flowing walked bass. These things happen in the course of thirty-three-year musical associations. Quite how these guys could play the Michel Legrand "Watch What Happens" will be a mystery to anybody who recognizes the crass quotes. How could they keep their faces straight? As for jokes, sometimes the older and badder are the best.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image