Woody Shaw: Isabel the Liberator


Isabel The Liberator


Woody Shaw (trumpet)


Live: Volume 2 (High Note 7089 )

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Woody Shaw (trumpet), Carter Jefferson (tenor sax, soprano sax), Larry Willis (piano), Stafford James (bass), Victor Lewis (drums).

Composed by Larry Willis


Recorded: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, 1979-80


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

In the late 1970s and early 1980s Woody Shaw had arguably the finest touring jazz (straight ahead) small group on the scene, only rivaled by Betty Carter’s trio and of course Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. It’s fortunate that a number of performances by his band have been documented on CD, notably the four volumes from the Keystone Korner. Here is Woody at his absolute peak as a player and bandleader. The live version of pianist Larry Willis’s “Isabel the Liberator” (originally recorded on Woody’s third CBS release For Sure!) is a tautly driving performance, and Woody’s solo on here is on a magisterial tip, building from a calm, reflective yet rhythmically assured opening to a number of successive peaks of shattering impact. This solo exemplifies for me that quality of Woody’s playing narrative in which he’s able to sustain a long solo through a sure control and exploitation of contrasts (intensity and complexity, inside and outside harmonic motion, chromatic and intervallic line construction, short rhythmic jabs and long legato phrases). Also check out Larry Willis’s playing, behind Woody and on his solo—out of sight! His comping really inspires Woody here.

Reviewer: Brian Lynch

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