Phil Woods

Meets Junko Onishi

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One of the more obscure releases by Phil Woods is a Japanese-only release of a quartet session with Japanese pianist Junko Onishi, with bassist Ron Carter and Woods' longtime drummer Bill Goodwin. Woods, as usual, is in top form, as he never runs short of either ideas or enthusiasm. Onishi is the wild card on this recording; aside from a handful of recording issued by Blue Note in the United States, she has had little exposure in the birthplace of jazz. Perhaps a record executive had the idea of gaining the young Onishi greater exposure through the opportunity to record with a jazz icon. Unfortunately, Onishi's playing isn't at the level that Woods is used to in a pianist, so one quickly gets the feeling that he is driving himself, something he is obviously very capable of doing. But Onishi's comping never rises much above average, while her solos lack the spark of pianists who have worked with Woods like Hal Galper, Jim McNeely, Mike Melillo, and Bill Charlap. Onishi's noodling solo in the brisk take of "All the Things You Are" never approaches the fire of the leader's work, though Goodwin's drum break is a treat. Likewise, her playing is a bit awkward in "'Round Midnight," as if she is unsure where she wants to take the tune during her solo. Ron Carter demonstrates throughout the date why he is a first-call bassist. This somewhat hard to find release is a perfect example of a good session that might have been better with a change in personnel.

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