After decades of being out of print and not issued on CD, the Elektra Musician series of recordings are slowly being trickled back into the marketplace, with Woody Shaw's Night Music being one of his strongest efforts in the latter days of the fiery, iconic trumpeter's brilliant career. A live recording at the Jazz Forum in New York City, Shaw's saxophone-less sextet sports an incredible front line, with trombonist Steve Turre and vibist Bobby Hutcherson assuring sparks will fly. Pianist Mulgrew Miller is the fuse that sets off the dynamism in this ensemble with his modal block chords and witty, inventive piano runs or solos, while Shaw's longstanding rhythm team of bassist Stafford James and drummer Tony Reedus feed the fire in the burning cauldron of this original post-bop jazz band. Two definitive compositions that will live for all of jazz time are included -- Turre's "Orange Crescent" and Miller's "Apex," both representing the absolute finest modern jazz vehicles of this early-'80s time period. A one-note bassline on the former piece, with Hutcherson and Miller's resonant, repeat, modal three chords, set the trumpet and trombone blazing through this marvelous, choppy, and complex, extended line, while "Apex" is a dazzling display of the pianist's formidable gifts as he sets up a beautiful, memorable melody for Shaw and Turre to wax poetically with total energy and playfulness -- exciting music to be sure. Of course these masters can't help but turn out the best in hard bop, as on Shaw's "To Kill a Brick," perhaps a basketball reference, as the group steams ahead with no messing around or after-effects on a brief melody before jamming away, with Reedus as the quintessential pace maker. The lone standard, "All the Things You Are," sounds like a cakewalk in contrast, but instead is a patient and carefully interpreted take of the single most played standard in jazz history, a languid version over 13 minutes that does cool the ensemble's jets in cut time, but allows an unhurried, relaxed tempo to allow solos that linger on the palate of one's aural sensitivities. This reissue is quite welcome for Shaw devotees, a solid live effort that can proudly stand next to his other concert and club date releases from the Muse label, and the Columbia label issue Stepping Stones. In his prime, Woody Shaw was perhaps the most formidable modern jazz trumpeter of his generation, and this recoding offers proof positive.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos