by Robert Palmer. March 30, 1977.
In the modern jazz mainstream, an area bounded chronologically by the hard bop of the early 1950's and the Modal playing popularized by Miles Davis and John Coltrane during the early 1960's, Woody Shaw is the reigning trumpet king. Freddie Hubbard is stiff competition, but Mr. Hubbard is mining the disco vein, leaving Mr. Shaw to explore a purer vision.
During the last few years Mr. Shaw has worked mostly with a quintet that sounds like an updated version of the Jazz Messengers, but recently he has been performing odd engagements with his Concert Ensemble, boasting four horns with a rhythm section.
The music this group plays bristles With energy and has a more contemporary slant than the Woody Shaw‐Louis Hayes Quintet. A number of the tunes have a Coltrane‐influenced harmonic flavor, and the close voicings played by the horns, which give the group a big‐band sound, are beguilingly reminiscent of the sort of charts Booker Little and Eric Dolphy used to turn out.
At the Village Vanguard on Monday evening—the group will be performing there again April 12 through 14—Mr. Shaw proceeded from strength to strength. His gently bittersweet, deeply personal sound and fertile melodic imagination were matched by some superb improvising from Rene McLean on alto saxophone and Ronnie Mathews on piano.
Wilby Fletcher was an intelligent powerhouse on drums—a rare combination — with Buster Williams prodding aggressively on bass. Carter Jefferson on reeds and Steve Turre on trombone took solos of their own and rounded out the ensembles.