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PHIL WOODS

Phil Woods And His European Rhythm Machine

Inner City Records IC 1002

 

 

 

 

  1. Chromatic Banana

  2. Ultimate Choice

  3. The Last Page Sans Melodie

  4. A Look Back

  5. The Day When The World

    Phil Woods - Alto sax, varitone, clarinet, English recorder, percussion, voice

    Gordon Beck - Electric piano, piano, organ, bells, percussion, voice

    Henri Texier - Acoustic bass, flutes, African percussion, voice

    Daniel Humair - Drums, percussions, Reno roto-tom, woodblocks

    The Woods family - Small percussions

    In early September, 2015, altoist Phil Woods gave his last public performance, and announced his retirement. Just over three weeks later, he passed away, at the age of 83. He had been one of the finest alto saxophonists of his era. Back in March 1968, he had moved from the States to Paris with his wife at that time, Chan Richardson, formerly the common law wife of Charlie Parker. He was, of course, a musician in the Parker tradition, though by no means a clone of the iconic jazz great. Woods lived in France from 1968 to 1972 and this recording, made in July 1970 with his group of that period, was one of the fruits of his stay in Europe. Initially the keyboards slot had been occupied by the Swiss George Gruntz but from 1969 until 1972, when Woods returned to America, Gordon Beck, the accomplished British pianist and composer, took over. The other members of the quartet were players of considerable reputation on the European jazz scene, namely the French bass player, Henri Texier, and Swiss drummer Daniel Humair.

    Although Phil Woods was firmly in the bop lineage, the music to be heard here owes more than a little to jazz fusion. There are shades of rock, funk and the avant-garde present, all anchored in quality musicianship. Woods wrote the opening piece and collaborated with Beck on The Last Page Sans Melodie, the other three are Beck compositions. The Last Page Sans Melodie features both inventive and mellow playing from Woods (remember this is the man whose stylish contribution to pop singer Billy Joel's I Love You Just The Way You Are in 1977 was so admired). The group as a whole are on form, however. As for The Day When The World, Beck is exemplary on his own composition, a catchy tune delivered with Úlan. Woods is absolutely top-notch, playing with passion and energy. Chromatic Banana is characteristically bopish from Woods on alto and varitone modified sax and there is a lengthy (and interesting) exploration of the theme. Gordon Beck is nimble and expansive, technically excellent as always, Humair provides drive and Texier solid backing. On Ultimate Choice, a drum-led intro widens into a rapid-fire number with the whole ensemble hurtling along to impressive effect. My one reservation concerns A Look Back, a brief experimental track featuring percussion, rattles (and woodblocks?). As the song has it, 'but not for me'! Speaking of curiosities, most of the liner notes are by Phil Woods from the original album release. They are quirky and sometimes downright bizarre. Times change, in this case noticeably so.

    All in all, this reissue makes for a satisfying listen and serves as a reminder of four exceptional musicians, two of which are no longer with us. It is good that their music is still available to us.

    James Poore



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