Tuesday, April 9, 2013

“Rights of Swing/Right to Swing” – Then and Now

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Today is the release date for Phil Woods with the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble: Right to Swing on Graham Carter’s Jazzed Media label [JM1061].

According to Graham’s press release:

“A dynamic, swinging set of big band and "Little Big Band" performances featuring newly crafted arrangements of works by jazz icon Phil Woods. The brilliant performance of alto saxophonist and composer Phil Woods, the DePaul Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Nonet (i.e. - The Phil Woods Ensemble at DePaul University) is beautifully captured in these studio recording sessions.

The title piece, Woods' classic five-movement "Rights Of Swing", distinguishes itself from the original 1961 recording in a beautifully re-orchestrated arrangement for nonet that includes some new material in each movement.”

And Bob Lark, the Director of the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble, wrote in his insert notes to the disc:

“Since the time of the original recording, Phil has re-worked each of the movements to his Rights Of Swing, supplementing and at times embellishing the original score with fresh ensemble material. The intention of our ensemble, and that of Phil, was not to imitate the 1961 version of the work. Indeed, many of the revisions - at times subtle, and at other times extensive - were created by Phil during the summer of 2011 in preparation for this recording. We expanded the band to include vibraphone (David Bugher), piano (Pete Benson), bass (Matt Ulery), drums (Keith Brooks),    trumpet (Dave Kaiser), trombone (Andy Baker), tenor saxophone (Sean Packard), baritone saxophone (Mark Hiebert), and alto saxophone (Phil Woods & Brent Griffin). As a result, Phil created a new treatment of his masterpiece with the addition of some background and ensemble passages, and interesting, fresh voicings.

The opening movement, Prelude, establishes the dynamic nature of the work with an up-tempo swing groove and demanding ensemble work. Woods' solo sets the table, demonstrating a mastery of sound, pulse, dynamics, articulation - and the ability to listen to his fellow musicians. Vibraphonist Dave Bugher, trombonist Andy Baker, and pianist Pete Benson play well-structured solos that showcase their fleet technique. Throughout the five-part piece, the rhythm section team of Keith Brooks (drums), Matt Ulery (bass), Benson and Bugher provide tremendous energy, drive and nuance.

Contrasting favorably with the more energetic movements is the second movement Ballad. Trumpeter Dave Kaiser plays the melody with warmth, and follows with a solo improvisation that remains sensitive to the arrangement. Woods' improvisation showcases his legendary sound in a hauntingly rich harmonic and rhythmic statement.

The third movement, African Violets, is a jazz waltz that features a syncopated, eighth-note based theme. Solos by Pete Benson and Sean Packard are energetic and display a contemporary vocabulary. Eighteen-year-old alto saxophonist Brent Griffin plays a dynamic solo that belies his youth, while Phil plays a solo that is both stimulating and inspired. Woods added much new material to this movement, including a beautiful ensemble chorus that follows the solo improvisations.

Scherzo, the fourth movement of the suite, is a moody, medium-tempo groove with passages in 6/8 and 4/4 meter. Phil's solo improvisation is soulful, patient and subtle; it sets the table for the student solos. Each soloist effectively reflects the context of Woods' arrangement, with the ensemble performing with fine attention to the nuances of jazz style.

Finale recalls the opening motif from the opening Prelude movement, albeit with a slight alteration. The angular - and difficult - melodic line is presented by the ensemble at a brisk tempo, followed by solo improvisations that reflect the energy and intensity of the arrangement. And Phil plays a solo that showcases his unparalleled ability to swing - the lion roars! ….”

In addition to the five-part Right to Swing suite, the Jazzed Media CD includes five, more original compositions by Phil, two of which he arranged – Hank Jones and Blues for Lopes – and Weak End arranged by Carl Kennedy, Pairing Off  arranged by Paul Dietrich, and Casanova arranged by Cormac McCarthy, all of whom are student arrangers at DePaul.

“RIGHTS OF SWING is Phil Woods' first large-scale composition, and this per­formance represents a striking growth in Woods as a player as well as a writer. It is impossible to separate Woods as an improvising jazzman from his work as a composer-arranger. "He's developed so much as a soloist," says Quincy Jones, "that he continually creates very logical melodic lines, and unlike many jazzmen who just string licks together, Phil actually does compose as he plays. Conversely, he thinks in blowing terms when he composes so that his writing does have the feeling and the impact of improvisation. With Phil, writing and playing is like a marriage—a marriage that works."

Nat Hentoff produced the 1961 session of Rights of Swing for Candid Records which has been reissued on CD in Japan as Candid TECW-20491.

Here’s are Nat’s opening remarks from the original LP’s liner notes.

© -  Nat Hentoff/Candid Records, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

I've been an admirer of Phil Woods since he began recording in the middle-1950's, as my DOWN BEAT reviews of the time indicated. For one thing, he was one of the very few young altoists who was much more than a shadow of Charlie Parker. Obviously indebted to Parker—as are all modern jazzmen—Woods, how­ever, was very much his own man from the beginning of his recorded work for Prestige and other labels. His conception was furiously personal as was his slashing, fiery tone. And there was never any question of his enormous capacity to swing. My only reservation then was an occasional tendency in his work to fierce impatience so that he sometimes didn't wholly finish what he began. There were also a pervasive hunger and raw emotion in this playing that were stingingly stimulating but which seldom settled down into mellowness or ten­derness. In the past couple of years, Woods has broadened and deepened his emotional message without losing the urgent individuality of his earlier playing. "I don't think," Phil said recently, "that I'm quite the angry young man I once was. I'm realizing more and more about the range of expressive possibilities in music. They used to call me strident, for example, and I don't think that ap­plies any more. Yet, I still intend to keep playing strongly and with, let us say, gonads."

Concomitant with Phil's expansion as a player has been his exultant discovery of the pleasures of writing. He had been writing originals for several years, but during his period with the Quincy Jones band—in which he is a featured soloist —Phil's desire to write became a passion. "When we were in Europe," Quincy recalls, "Phil started turning music out night and day. And this was real writing. As I said before, the writing reflected his playing—direct, driving lines that were extensions of his blowing. Writing, furthermore, is natural for him. He has the feel for it, the knowledge, and the sense of how to organize the horns in thoroughly jazz terms. Now that he's added a great deal of experience to so sound an instinct he's become capable of producing as ambitious and successful a piece as this is. Phil's RIGHTS OF SWING contains organic development, variety of moods and colors and clarity of lines and voicings. Furthermore, it's so much an extension of him that it can't be categorized. It's simply Phil Woods."

This is not, to elaborate on Quincy's point, "third stream" jazz. Phil's writ­ing, like his playing, is based solidly on jazz traditions. By temperament, Phil is not an avant-gardist. He believes that much development remains possible within the main lines of the jazz language from early blues to the present. But he's also not a conservative. His concepts are fresh, viable, and intensely personal.

From his colleagues in the Quincy Jones band, Phil selected Benny Bailey, Sahib Shihab, Julius Watkins, Buddy Catlett and Curtis Fuller (except for the final section on which Willie Dennis played trombone. Added to the rhythm section were Osie Johnson and Tommy Flanagan. Woods' solos are consistently powerful in their authoritativeness, emotional force, melodic continuity, and individuality of conception. Benny Bailey is characteristically big and wide-ranging in tone (note, for example, his statement in the BALLAD) and penetrat­ingly personal in execution. Shihab is robust and sometimes sardonic on bari­tone and full-bodied on flute. Fuller is incisively fluent, as is Dennis, while Julius Watkins again demonstrates how completely and pungently he had made the French horn into a jazz instrument. The rhythm section is exceptional in its understanding of all the strands in this mosaic and its capacity to keep the time flexibly alive. A key factor in the performance was Quincy Jones, who conducted the ensemble and gave invaluable advice.

This album, to recapitulate, is in no other stream but that of Phil Woods who, in turn, is wholly committed to the rights of jazz.               


Here’s an audio-only track of Prelude as performed by Phil Woods and the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble:

You can compare it with the original version of Prelude on this audio-only track:

Order information is available at http://www.jazzedmedia.com/

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comments here. Thank you.