Phil Woods

Complete Concert: Live at the Wigmore Hall, London

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Although alto saxophone great Phil Woods made several duo sessions with pianists during the 1990s, this concert with Gordon Beck, one of the pianists from his European Rhythm Machine (the other was George Gruntz), is easily the best of the lot. The musicians take their time stretching out on timeless standards like Cole Porter's "Everything I Love," with Beck offering a long, dazzling solo introduction before Woods joins him on his lyrical yet too infrequently heard clarinet. Their spirited take of Miles Davis' "Solar" features extended solo passages by each man, while the snappy take of Joe Henderson's "Isotope" is bop at its best. Beck's solo introduction to Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way" is imaginative, while Woods also is clearly enjoying himself on this time-tested standard. Beck tackles Bill Evans' introspective "Re: Person I Knew" unaccompanied, putting his own mark on this moody composition. Woods includes several of his best works, including remakes of two warm tributes: "Quill," in memory of fellow alto saxophonist Gene Quill, with whom he made many great records, and the also potent "Goodbye Mr. Evans, honoring the legendary Bill Evans. Woods switches to clarinet for his lovely ballad "Petite Chanson." Beck's originals are every bit as strong though not as widely known; "For Keith" seems to constantly evolve into something new, while "Core of the Apple" is the essence of hard bop. There's never a disappointing moment during this concert, which is preserved in its entirety on this outstanding two-CD set. Highly recommended!

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