Woody Shaw Quintet: Time Is Right

The trumpeter's signature superimposition of pentatonics is heard here in Italy in 1983 in a quintet including Mulgrew Miller


Like several other prominent jazz musicians, trumpeter Woody Shaw cut a tragic figure. Lauded by Miles Davis, Leonard Feather and others, in later life he had poor sight if not blindness and he was a drug addict. In 1989 he lost an arm in a freak subway accident, contracting but later recovering from pneumonia before dying almost three months later from kidney failure.

This album was recorded six years earlier before an audience at the Osteria Delle Dame club in Bologna. It featured a band that had long dispensed with a permanent saxophonist and perfected the trumpet-trombone lead – Shaw and Steve Turre – with pianist Mulgrew Miller in close attendance and bassist Stafford James and drummer Tony Reedus keeping the cauldron on the boil.

Shaw’s clean and fresh tone was applied to the consonances of a major pentatonic scale and could at a slow tempo hint at that tragic feeling. It’s evident on his introduction to We’ll Be Together Again, a languorous, almost diffident theme statement to which he returns after the band has upped the speed and he has delivered with Miller a core of orchestral brilliance.

Miller’s aggressive comping eggs on Turre on You And The Night And The Music, a track which like the Brazilian title chart, with its quirky solo by Turre on the Haitian shell, is marked by rolling internal energy, particularly from Reedus’s thumping kit. Three of the four tracks last over 12 minutes, the opening From Moment To Moment making its steady advance until Reedus takes control for Miller to solo at length with his trademark sparkle, albeit on an instrument that sounds excessively bright and over-ratcheted but always in tune.

The recording was the last by the band, which had been playing together since 1979 with rapidly increasing unanimity. Later in 1983, Shaw disbanded it without formal explanation. It was a loss to a performance niche in which musicians could play in a variety of contemporary styles.

From Moment To Moment; Time Is Right; You And The Night And The Music; We’ll Be Together Again (46.67)
Woody Shaw (t); Steve Turre (tb, Haitian shell); Mulgrew Miller (p); Stafford James (b); Tony Reedus (d). Italy, 1 January 1983.
Red Records RR123168-2