New York Times Review: Beethoven to Woody Shaw (1976)

New York Times Review: Beethoven to Woody Shaw (1976)

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by Woody Shaw III


Note by Woody Shaw III:

Here is an excerpt from a selection of reviews written by late New York Times music critic Robert Palmer in December of 1977, which included new album releases as eclectic and varied as the works of Ludwvig Van Beethoven - performed by the London Symphony Orchestra - and the latest recording to date by Woody Shaw entitled Love Dance (featuring Joe Bonner, pn; Billy Harper, ts; Steve Turre, tb; Cecil McBee, bs; Victor Lewis, ds). The title of the article could be taken as more than just a mere reference to the primary subjects of review, but perhaps also as an inference to the underlying continuity and quality shared by the two legendary artists whose names he chose to highlight: Beethoven and Shaw.

As many of Palmer's reviews of Woody Shaw often were, this article is rife with references to Woody's overt respect for the aesthetic tradition of acoustic improvisational music ("straight ahead" jazz), which faced the growing threat of obsolescence and almost total commercial abandonment during the (mid-)1970s. In addition to his many other contributions to the music by way of his innovations on the trumpet, as composer, and as bandleader, Woody Shaw's impact on the up-and-coming and aspiring jazz musicians of his time - and on those who succeeded him - was largely shaped by this steadfastness in character and by his total commitment to authenticity, individual craftsmanship, and artistic integrity - persistent themes throughout his highly active and prolific two-and-half-decade-long career.

by Robert Palmer
Album Review: Love Dance (Muse Records 5074)
27 Dec 1976

Amplified, rock-influenced, "cross-over" music dominates jazz record sales these days, while critical attention is often focused on the avant-garde. But some young musicians are still working in the jazz idiom of the 1940s and 50s, and one of the best of them is a trumpeter in his early 30's named Woody Shaw.

Mr. Shaw is not an archivist. His influences include Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane, two of the more advanced musicians of the 1960s. But he chooses to work out his ideas in the context of popular song forms, and the choice is a wise one. Mr. Shaw is blessed with an exceptionally lyrical and inventive imagination and a sophisticated harmonic intelligence, which would be largely wasted in a more avant-garde context. He is also a very personal player, whose big but slightly bitter-sweet sound is unmistakable. 

 

 

"Love Dance," Mr. Shaw's second album for Muse, is a very nearly ideal showcase for his talents. The assisting musicians are excellent, especially the tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, and the composition, voiced in bright, ringing harmony for four horns and a five-man rhythm section, are substantial. The album's fault is that Mr. Shaw does not feature his own playing enough. It is to be hoped he will record soon with a smaller group and give an even better indication of his abilities. 

Love Dance

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