Encountering the name Woody Shaw (1944-1989) in print or conversation, it's not uncommon for a phrase much like – the last original trumpet voice" to follow. For Shaw was just such a player: a daring horn stylist with an utterly personal and technically advanced approach that has yet to be matched since his untimely death.
Even as a young up-and-comer, Shaw was eager to investigate the cutting edge of modern jazz, working for a time with the innovative multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy. After a memorable stint with the hard bop maestro, Horace Silver, Shaw leaped head first towards the post bop firmament, collaborating with such visionary player/composers as Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill, and Larry Young, whose 1965 masterwork, Unity, featured Shaw's soon-to-be-standard, –The Moontrane."
Further work with such A-list leaders as Art Blakey, Max Roach and Dexter Gordon (Shaw is heard to great advantage on the legendary tenorist's joyous Homecoming) followed, but it was only a matter of time before this blatantly talented horn man set out on his own. The late 1970s and 80's found Shaw fronting ensembles that brought attention to such fine players as Steve Turre and Mulgrew Miller, as well as shining light on the leader's own adventurous, strikingly virtuosic improvising.
On such landmark Columbia albums as Woody lll and For Sure! -- projects that represented a career peak for Shaw in terms of both personal creativity and commercial exposure -- his impressive compositions ( the outstanding –Organ Grinder" among them) and arranging skills for expanded ensembles are brought to the fore. Although he didn't live to conquer the personal problems that set back his career, present day trumpet icons from Dave Douglas to Wynton Marsalis have acknowledged Shaw's lasting influence. Let Miles Davis have the last word about Shaw: –Now there's a great trumpet player. He can play different from all of them."
- Rosewood (1977)
- Stepping Stones (1978)
- Stepping Stones Bonus Tracks
- Woody III (1979)
- For Sure! (1979)
- United (1981)
WOODY SHAW _ THE COMPLETE COLUMBIA ALBUMS COLLECTION (2011)
Reflections from Producer Michael Cuscuna, via Woody Shaw III | 10/31/11
Charlie Lourie and I started Mosaic Records (www.MosaicRecords.com) in 1982 as a direct mail company in the business of creating and issuing definitive, complete box sets of the major works of jazz artists regardless of their fame or lack of it. The 42nd Mosaic set, I'm proud to say, was given over to the complete Columbia Studio Recordings of Woody Shaw (produced by Mosaic Records in 1992), music with which I was originally involved as the record producer. It was a strange sensation pouring over material with which I'd worked less than 20 years earlier.
The Mosaic set focused solely on Woody's studio sessions for two financial reasons. Still a young company, Mosaic did not have the money to remix the unissued material that remained from Woody's live Village Vanguard session in 1978. Also, Woody's stature had yet to achieve the level that he deserved and we wanted to keep the set small and affordable to extend its reach as wide as possible.
With WOODY SHAW _ THE COMPLETE COLUMBIA ALBUMS COLLECTION (Sony Legacy, www.PopMarket.com, 2011), Woody Shaw III and I had the luxury to delve fully into the performances that his father and I taped at the Village Vanguard that August. And as a result, the set adds over two hours of music from the Woody Shaw Quintet captured live at the Village Vanguard in August of 1978. And not one note of this music is a throwaway or a dredged-up outtake to create bonus material. All of these performances come from the original listening sessions that Woody Shaw and I had in 1978, with the original master tapes and the notes that I took at the time on what should and shouldn't be released.
Another thing that separates this set from the original Mosaic set is the monumental strides that have been made in the conversion of analog tapes to digital for the purposes of CD replication. With today's sampling rate and analog-to-digital converters, the audio of a standard CD is immeasurably better than one mastered 10 or 20 years ago.
I'm gratified to see this music come around one more time and not just for the improvements that we've been able to make on this important body of work by Woody Shaw but also because this music is emblematic of what jazz can be. Beyond his distinctive solo voice on trumpet, Woody's music had its own identity in composition, voicings and rhythmic conception. It was inclusive music that didn't draw lines in the sand between be-bop, modality and free form music. Its vocabulary drew from the influence of many genres inside and outside jazz. To me it represented intelligence, freshness and grace as well as soulful, fiery creativity. It could have been recorded tomorrow. --(Michael Cuscuna, www.MosaicRecords.com, October 31, 2011)