Phil Woods looks forward to every trip to Italy, as producer Paolo Piangiarelli treats him like a valued houseguest who is an old friend. The Philology label owner also makes sure that the alto saxophonist is always joined in the studio by some of Europe's very best jazz musicians; for this 2005 session, it is Woods' reunion with the brilliant pianist Franco D'Andrea. The two discs are filled with favorites from the vast George Gershwin songbook, nearly all of which have been played on countless jazz record dates over the decades. Yet with a pair of veterans joining forces like Woods and D'Andrea, they continue to find new facets for their improvisations within these timeless standards, while never losing sight of the melody. The pianist's dissonant introduction of "I've Got Rhythm" sets up an adventurous flight for the duo, while "Lady be Good" also seems in danger of overexposure, but their jaunty approach keeps it fresh as well. The two songs that aren't by Gershwin still fit the mood of the day. "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" was no doubt inspired by the devastating Hurricane Katrina that hit the Crescent City only weeks before the recording session; Woods' delightful solo is full of spirit and sneaks in a few quotes, including a brief snatch of "Things Ain't What They Used to Be." The old warhorse "St. Louis Blues" is putty in D'Andrea's hands as he takes it in atypical post-bop directions. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden