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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Big Brass and
Rights of Swing




Big Brass
Hard Sock Dance
Please Say Yes
A Kiss To Build A Dream On
Maud’s Mood
Rights of Swing
Prelude and Part 1; Part II; Part III; Part IV; Part V

Personnel: Big Brass
Benny Bailey (trumpet): Julius Watkins (French horn): Phil Woods (alto sax, bass clarinet): Tommy Flanagan (piano); Les Spann (flute and guitar); Buddy Catlett (bass): Art Taylor (drums)
Rights of Swing
Phil Woods’ Ensemble; Benny Bailey (trumpet): Julius Watkins (French horn): Phil Woods (alto sax): Curtis Fuller (trombone); Sahib Shihab (baritone sax): Tommy Flanagan (piano): Buddy Catlett (bass): Osie Johnson (drums) plus Willie Dennis (trombone) and Mickey Roker (drums) replace Fuller and Johnson on Part V
Recorded 1960-61 [78:40]


Intellectual property first; it’s Benny Bailey’s Big Brass and Phil Woods’s Rights of Swing though both men play in the other’s band. The elite personnel ensure that solo outings and ensembles are never without interest. Taking Bailey’s portion first we find that this November 1960 session stands up pretty well. There’s a striking hard bop blues feel to it which is varied through the use of the rather pensive ballad Alison and the frolicsome Oliver Nelson tune Tipsy where French horn player Julius Watkins makes a valuable contribution, Woods picking up his phrases with characteristic insouciance, his alto splendidly agile and gleaming. Tommy Flanagan is the date’s pianist and he kicks off A Kiss To Build A Dream On with his trademark lyricism and warmth. Les Spann stretches out here, but it’s Benny Bailey’s sprightly trumpet that dominates through its daring and its bristling unconventionality. Woods plays his bass clarinet on several of these cuts, notably Maud’s Mood, a Bailey original and an insouciant blues.

Wood’s Rights of Swing is divided into a Prelude and five succeeding parts, thus titled. The first part is variable but it’s not until Part II, a Ballad, that things begin to excite. Bailey plays a richly lyrical solo, and Woods a heartfelt one, though Watkins disappoints in his less fluent solo. Woods is ebullient in the waltz motif of Part III, Flanagan taking a goodish but not outstanding solo. Woods is drenched in the Blues and shows it in Part IV, a scherzo with intriguingly voiced ensemble writing, arranged by Woods. There’s a Gospel kick here too. The final part was recorded a fortnight later with a change of personnel; trombonist Willie Dennis and drummer Mickey Roker replace Curtis Fuller and Osie Johnson. There’s an uncredited flute solo and one can plainly hear Woods coming in a fraction too soon before an ensemble passage.

These well-restored tracks come with an excellent sleeve note.

Jonathan Woolf 

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