- Serpent’s Tooth
- My Man Benny
- Willow Weep for Me
- Alvin G
- Sweet Lorraine
- Reet’s Neet
- Goodbye Mr. Evans
- How’s Your Mama?
This recording was made at a concert at the Villa Berg in Stuttgart
on May 19th 1996.
I like live concert recordings, they have a an
atmosphere of doing it for real about them and any concert by
the amazing SWR Big Band is always something special. If you add
to that a soloist of the capability of Phil Woods, then you really
do have a winning combination. If anyone can claim to have picked
up where Charlie Parker left off it is Phil, but don’t think of
him as just a Parker clone, there is a lot more to him than that.
On this recording he displays his genius as Composer, Arranger,
Alto and Clarinet player. He swings like mad throughout with an
easily identifiable tone, amazing technique and a unique style
of improvisation. I have waxed eloquently before about the quality
of the SWR Big Band, so I won’t repeat myself; suffice it to say
that it is one of the finest Big bands that Europe has ever produced.
Serpent’s tooth is a Miles Davies composition
arranged by Phil and he wastes no time in showing us just the
kind of musical treat we are in for, as soon as he starts to solo.
My Man Benny is a tribute to Benny Carter, himself a jazz legend
both as Alto player and big band arranger. Quill is another dedication
this time to Gene Quill another alto player who Phil jointly ran
a quintet with. It was during the time that they played together,
that a member of the audience said to Gene Quill "All you
have done all night is play like Charlie Parker". Quill thrust
his instrument into the man’s hands and said, "OK if you
think that’s easy, you play like Charlie Parker."
Willow Weep for Me starts as the expected standard
ballad, but changes to a breezy jazz waltz. As well as Woods,
Karl Farrant solos on Trumpet. Phil has said of this arrangement
that maybe he should have called it Willow Laugh for Me!
Alvin G is another tribute this time to the late
Al Cohn who was a great friend of Phil Woods, Peter Weniger a very
fine young German tenor player solos with Woods on this one.
A nice bit of variety is brought to the concert
at this point, when Phil Woods switches to Clarinet and plays
with Klaus Wagenleiter – Piano, Henning Sieverts – Bass and Jorg
Gebhardt – Drums, the SWR rhythm section. The tune is Sweet Lorraine,
which was a favourite of that other clarinet virtuoso Benny Goodman.
I have not heard him play clarinet before, but Phil is some performer
on this difficult instrument. The rhythm section is well up to
the task and there are good solos from bass and piano.
Reet’s Neet is back to the powerful big band
style and a touch of Count Basie, Wood’s leads off the solos followed
by Karl Farrant, Klaus Wagenleiter, Peter Weniger and Henning
Sieverts follow. Phil Woods claims that Goodbye Mr. Evans, the
piece he dedicated to the late pianist Bill Evans, is his most
successful composition to date. I find all his work interesting,
but this one has been recorded by the likes of Tommy Flanagan,
Kenny Kirkland and Ahmad Jamal, it is something special, both
as a melody and as a basis for improvisation.
The concluding track How’s Your Mama has been
used by Phil Woods for a long time as a signing off tune, something
to send the audience home happy.
There can be no doubt that he succeeds! And there
is no doubt that this record deserves to have good sales, it will
appeal to both jazz and big band fans equally.