Master of the Art is the studio companion to the album Night Music, also reissued on Wounded Bird records from the original Elektra Musician masters, with the same band as on the live date, but with completely different songs and a short interview from the trumpeter. At a time when Shaw was one of the most consistently brilliant trumpeter's of the modern era, this effort did nothing to hurt that estimable reputation. Vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and trombonist Steve Turre being on the front line made for an arresting sound, while the emerging pianist Mulgrew Miller was asserting himself as a major force, with drummer Stafford James and drummer Tony Reedus sounding like they had worked together for decades. The four tracks include here are quite lengthy, allowing for stretched melody lines and beefy solos, showing the inventiveness and stamina of this mighty sextet. The Walter Davis, Jr. composition "400 Years Ago Tomorrow" shapeshifts from 5/4 to 6/8 to hard bop gears in a bright sound, and a complex and aggressive manner, with Shaw's best effort as a soloist. Thelonious Monk's "Misterioso" reflects its typical stairstep melody with Shaw's trumpet inserts between the folds of trombone and vibraphone in a long blues over 17-plus minutes. Shaw's lone written contribution, "Sweet Love of Mine," is one of his very best, a pretty melody in a light samba mode that will linger on any jazz lovers brain, while the semi-standard ballad "Diane" is the easier and most relaxed piece on the date, with a line parallel to "You Turned The Tables on Me." The "interview" is more a statement by Shaw relating how much fun this session was after having toured Europe with the band, and the high level of musicianship this ensemble enjoyed. Master of the Art is another example of how Woody Shaw was at the top of his game before he died in a subway accident, and why he was revered as a force to be reckoned with pre-Wynton Marsalis.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos