May 19th and 20th, in 2006, found Woods working with his long-time rhythm section of Gilmore and Goodwin, and McNeely who held down the piano chair in his quintet from 1990-1995, plus trumpeter Dr. Bob Lark, director of the DePaul University Jazz ensemble with whom Woods has had a long musical association. First meeting when the altoist came to DePaul as a guest artist, the two quickly formed a mutual admiration, culminating in Woods recording with the DePaul ensemble in 2004, followed by the first recording of the Lark/Woods quintet, In Her Eyes, in 2005. Coming to Chicago in 2006 to celebrate the release of In Her Eyes, Woods brought the quintet together for a weekend at the Jazz Showcase, which yielded this, their second recording.
The session opens with three original compositions by Lark, who is heard here exclusively on flugelhorn. Ravenswood and Mad Dan's, both swing hard at a medium tempo, while Cathy's Song is a lovely ballad. The originals are followed by standards. All Blues finds Lark at his most Milesish--elsewhere he evokes Tom Harrell and Kenny Wheeler--while Woods enters with I Feel Pretty. It's You Or No One gives them a chance for an up-tempo burn, and then Woods takes a well-deserves rest and features Lark and McNeely on another ballad and the closing What Is This Thing Called Love, with Gilmore and Goodwin also getting their chance to solo.
From time to time Woods comes up with more expanded projects where he can display his skills as composer/arranger, his recent The Children's Suite being a case in point. And he enjoys teaming up with other star soloists, particularly saxophonists such as Benny Carter, Lee Konitz, Lew Tabackin and Bud Shank. But for years his quintet has been his bread and butter, working best for him when he has a front-line partner who can keep up with him. With Bob Lark fulfilling that role splendidly, this is a prime example of this jazz master at work.
Nat Hentoff once compared Phil Woods to trumpeter Roy Eldridge because, "like Roy, he never coasts. . . no matter the size or composition of the audience, Phil Plays, like Roy, as if it's the last chorus he'll ever take." 'Nuff said!