Phil Woods

Phil Woods & the Japanese Rhythm Machine

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Phil Woods toured Japan in 1975 with the Japanese Rhythm Machine (pianist Hideo Ichikawa, bassist Mitsuaki Furuno, and drummer George Otsuka), recording this album at during a concert at Kosei Nenkin Kaikan in Tokyo. The alto saxophonist is at the top of his game, while the rhythm section provides excellent support, with Ichikawa especially shining in the solo spotlight. Woods' impassioned take of Chick Corea's "Windows" is a terrific opener. Released as a Japanese LP in 1976 and reissued on CD three decades later (also only in Japan), this recording has never had wide distribution in North America, though fans of Phil Woods are advised to acquire it. His powerful treatment of the melancholy ballad "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" is a masterpiece, with a bluesy air in spots. Woods' "Johnny Hodges," a brilliant tribute to the alto sax great of Duke Ellington's orchestra, has a surprising twist, as he plays it on soprano sax, an instrument Hodges did not play at all for the final three decades of his career. Back on alto sax for the final two songs, Woods' rapid-fire setting of "Speak Low" is followed by a brief encore of "Doxy" as a sign-off to the enthusiastic audience.

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