Woody Shaw

Two More Pieces of the Puzzle

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This 1998 single CD combines all of the music from two of Woody Shaw's Muse albums: The Woody Shaw Concert Ensemble and The Iron Men. The former date matches the great trumpeter and his regular group of the period (altoist Rene McLean, pianist Ronnie Mathews, bassist Stafford James and drummer Louis Hayes) with tenor saxophonist Frank Foster and trombonist Slide Hampton for a frequently exciting Berlin concert. There are no slow moments, and although some of the obscure originals are quite lengthy (with Joe Chambers' "Hello to the Wind" reaching nearly 17 minutes), the solos are consistently creative and often quite explorative. The Iron Men is particularly intriguing, for it teams Shaw (who is in prime form on both dates) with such advanced players as altoist Arthur Blythe, Anthony Braxton (on alto and soprano), pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, bassist Cecil MeBee and either Joe Chambers or Victor Lewis on drums. The personnel and instrumentation differ from track to track, with the highlights includes Eric Dolphy's "Iron Man" and Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz"; the latter has Braxton playing clarinet. A couple of brief free improvisations by the trio of Shaw, Abrams and McBee, in addition to Andrew Hill's "Symmetry" and the leader's "Song of Songs," round out this fascinating set. A generous and highly recommended CD.

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