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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Jack Ashby



SWR Big Band

Phil Woods

Jazz Matinee

hanssler CD 93.009



  1. Serpentís Tooth
  2. My Man Benny
  3. Quill
  4. Willow Weep for Me
  5. Alvin G
  6. Sweet Lorraine
  7. Reetís Neet
  8. Goodbye Mr. Evans
  9. Howís 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 donít 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 wonít repeat myself; suffice it to say that it is one of the finest Big bands that Europe has ever produced.

Serpentís 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 manís hands and said, "OK if you think thatís 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 Ė Piano, Henning Sieverts Ė Bass and Jorg Gebhardt Ė 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.

Reetís Neet is back to the powerful big band style and a touch of Count Basie, Woodís 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 Howís 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.

Don Mather

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