Old Cats, New Lions Celebrate Woody Shaw

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Set List

  • "Joshua C."
  • "The Moontrane"
  • "Katrina Ballerina"
  • "Sweet Love of Mine" with Woody Shaw III on drums
  • "Stepping Stone"

Woody Shaw Legacy Band

  • Sean Jones: trumpet
  • Ezana Edwards: trumpet
  • Nick Roseboro: trumpet
  • Mulgrew Miller: piano
  • Dwayne Burno: bass
  • Victor Lewis: drums
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Woody Shaw (300)

Woody Shaw at Horace Silver's Jody Grind recording session for Blue Note Records in November 1966 at Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Francis Wolff/Mosaic Images hide caption

toggle caption Francis Wolff/Mosaic Images

Concert Pick: Woody Shaw (1944-1989) was legally blind. When he worked onstage with reedman Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Kirk, also blind, once said, "Let's keep playing and walk out in the audience." Shaw declined, but Kirk walked. Later, Shaw composed "Rahsaan's Run," which the group Woody Shaw Legacy Ensemble: Brass Knights takes on at a swift tempo.

Taking On An Innovator

In September 2008, the Festival of New Trumpet Music staged a major retrospective of Woody Shaw's compositions at the Jazz Standard in New York. There, a pair of Shaw's one-time bandmates, Mulgrew Miller on piano and Victor Lewis on drums, backed three young-lion horn players with chops. The result is an intense musical experience.

The young lions are trumpeters Sean Jones, Ezana Edwards and Nick Roseboro. Jones is featured on all the pieces, while Edwards and Roseboro divide the rest of the solos, beginning with Jones and Roseboro on "Joshua C." — named for Joshua C. Whiting, Shaw's tai-chi instructor. In the 1970s, Shaw practiced Chinese martial arts to help increase his focus and discipline in music.

More About Woody Shaw

Woody Shaw Jr. was born on Dec. 24, 1944, in North Carolina. His father, Woody Shaw Sr., was a member of the Diamond Jubilee Singers. In Newark, N.J., Shaw's high-school trumpet teacher believed that Shaw could play in the New York Philharmonic someday. Listening to Shaw's recordings, it's not hard to hear why.

But hearing trumpeter Clifford Brown changed Shaw's direction. The very month Brown died, Shaw had started playing the trumpet in 1955.

Saxophonist Eric Dolphy encouraged Shaw to develop his own style. And he did, setting himself apart by playing new post-Coltrane harmony on the trumpet, with wide leaps and brilliant riptides in his solos. Shaw's innovations are highly appreciated throughout jazz — and, most tellingly, by trumpeters. When newcomer Wynton Marsalis first came to New York, Marsalis received a grant to study formally with an artist of his choice, and his choice was Woody Shaw.

Shaw's compositions advanced the curve. They are pushing, urgent and musical, difficult but logical, rewarding and enjoyable. They stick around in your head. To follow up, there's more about the creator at the official Woody Shaw Web site.


Woody Louis Armstrong Shaw III produced the live show. The director of the Festival of New Trumpet Music is Dave Douglas. Thanks to the Jazz Standard's artistic director, Seth Abramson. Music mix by Duke Markos with Yujin Cha and Josh Webb at WBGO Jazz 88.



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