Phil Woods is a guest of the SWR Big Band on this German CD, which was taped live in the spring of 1996. This decades-old orchestra provides not only superb backing for the legendary alto saxophonist, but also features several talented soloists joining Woods throughout the concert. The infrequently heard "Serpent's Tooth" (written by Miles Davis) starts this concert with a burst of adrenaline, with brief but effective solos by Woods and trumpeter Karl Farrent. "Willow Weep for Me" has long been a part of Woods' playbook, and his arrangement utilizing Davis' "All Blues" as a supporting vamp and incorporating a bit of dissonance never grows stale. Woods switches to clarinet and is joined only by the rhythm section for a swinging take of "Sweet Lorraine," which also spotlights pianist Klaus Wagenleiter and a potent arco bass solo by Henning Sieverts. Much of the program focuses upon Woods' tremendous skills as a composer, including the lightly swinging "My Man Benny"; the more boisterous "Quill," which has lusty alto sax solos by Klaus Graf and Bernd Rabe as well as by Woods; the snappy "Reet's Neet" and the emotional "Goodbye Mr. Evans" (written following pianist Bill Evans' untimely death); and finally, the inevitable, joyful closer, "How's Your Mama," Woods' longtime theme song, which has a rapid exchange of brief solos featuring many different players. Phil Woods seems to rise to the occasion no matter what the setting, but the strong performance of the SWR Big Band also helps to make this a highly recommended CD.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden