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Bouncing With Bud & Phil: Live At Yoshis by Bud Shank & Phil Woods

When Bud Shank and Phil Woods worked together for the first time in duo performances on Joe Segal’s Jazz Cruise, it was one of those why-haven’t-we-done-this-before? moments. And so they did it again. In jazz festivals in Toronto, the Netherlands and at the Port Townsend, Washington festival where Shank usually plays every year. And then these legendary musicians, with two of the most recognizable sounds in jazz and each with more than a half century of experiences, decided to perform in some clubs too, giving the public the opportunity to hear that infrequent event: two alto saxophonists trading ideas and absorbing the moment, rather than the more often heard pair of tenor saxophonists. While Shank had recorded with Frank Morgan and played numerous gigs with Art Pepper (unfortunately, undocumented), and while Woods recorded with Gene Quill, for some reason alto saxophonists haven’t been presented in tandem as often as they deserve.

One of their once-in-a-lifetime nightclub sessions occurred at Yoshi’s in Oakland, California in late 2004. Ironically, two members of Shank’s group were committed to another jazz cruise. So, he brought in that superb pianist from southern California, Mike Wofford, and Woods suggested his long-time drummer (and brother-in-law) Bill Goodwin. The band was complete, and they were off and running.

Or rather bouncing. They opened the evening with Bud Powell’s "Bouncing With Bud," giving the two men inspired early in their careers by Charlie Parker the opportunity to break loose with some bebop, which remains in their bloodstream. Despite the common origins of these septuagenarians’ inspiration, their improvisations through successive choruses of the song prove that their experiences have diverged as they developed styles of their own, Shank’s sax barking and singing and while Woods quavers and finds harmonic avenues through winding routes. After that rousing opener, concluded by a unison chorus that obviously invigorates the applauding audience, the song list becomes less predictable.

Shank suggested George Cables’ beautiful ballad, "Helen’s Song," which he and Woods play in harmony before splitting into improvisation, as well as Bill Mays’ "Gemma’s Eyes," a jazz waltz of harmonic depth that allows for pauses and accents and swelling dynamics. In addition, Shank tosses in a reminder that it was he, not Stan Getz, who first recorded Brazilian samba in a jazz context with Laurindo Almeida when he and Woods play "Carousels." As far as virtuoso performances go, Woods, as usual, proves that he can make his development of a song an important event unto itself (recall his famous solo on Billy Joel’s "I Love You Just The Way You Are"), and fortunately his version of Benny Carter’s "Summer Serenade" was captured on tape and included in Bouncing With Bud & Phil. So too was Shank’s interpretation of "Nature Boy," which he plays on his own with rhythm section accompaniment in a dramatic presentation that evolves from his first rhythmless chorus into an irresistible swing.

Shank and Woods close the evening with another bop-derived tune, Gigi Gryce’s famous composition, "Minority," reflecting the energy and camaraderie of the opener, "Bouncing With Bud." Fortunately, such an event wasn’t available just to those who attended the Yoshi’s concert. Now, the music of that evening, certainly an important event, has been released to listeners worldwide as the musicianship of these two masters of the alto sax can be absorbed and enjoyed.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Bud Shank & Phil Woods
  • CD Title: Bouncing With Bud & Phil: Live At Yoshis
  • Genre: BeBop / Hard Bop
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Capri Records
  • Tracks: Bouncing With Bud, Helen’s Song, Nature Boy, Carousels, Summer Serenade, Gemma’s Eyes, Minority
  • Musicians: Bud Shank, Phil Woods (alto saxophone); Mike Wofford (piano); Bob Magnusson (bass); Bill Goodwin (drums)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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