Editor’s Pick · Album of the Month ·
A Latin Jazz Perspective On The Music Of Woody Shaw
Woody Shaw was an artist endowed with two of the greatest qualities a musician could ever dream of: perfect pitch and a photographic memory. In his short years on earth, Shaw was not only an influence and an inspiration for legion of trumpeters, but he left a lasting imprint on the instrument like no trumpeter has ever done. Shaw extended the vocabulary of the instrument by innovative use of wide intervals of fourths and fifths that defied the architecture of the trumpet. In both his writing and in performance he introduced polytonality, often using highly complex permutations of the pentatonic scale. He was a master of modality and used a wide range of harmonic color, generating unusual contrasts, using tension and resolution, dissonance, odd rhythmic groupings, and “over the barline” phrases. Shaw had a rich, dark tone that was distinctive with a near-vocal quality to it; his intonation and articulation were highly developed, and he greatly utilized the effects of the lower register, usually employing a deep, extended vibrato at the end of his phrases.
Shaw was not only open to ideas, but he was capable of incorporating a staggering array of them so as to enable him to play in any idiom and style from Jazz to classical and had he lived longer he would probably have also developed a significant Afro-Caribbean repertoire. Why? Quite simply because Woody Shaw was a student of living music and – according to his son and executive producer of this disc under review, Woody Shaw III – had an astute ear for traditional Japanese music, Indonesian Gamelan, Indian classical music, Brazilian music, and various other musics of the world. Picking up the slack, the younger Shaw has come together with the fiery trumpeter Brian Lynch to produce a masterfully shaped Latinized repertoire of Shaw’s classic songs. Lynch had released two other albums where he has paid tribute to trumpet masters: Unsung Heroes – Volumes 1 and 2; albums that were substantial projects themselves. However neither of them approached the size and scope of this homage to Shaw entitled Madera Latino – A Latin Jazz Interpretation On The Music Of Woody Shaw. Not only is the disc just shy of 2 hours long but it brings together two – probably three – generations of trumpeters, all of whom have made their mark individually. Even more remarkable is the fact that some of these musicians are playing way out of their comfort zones.
Add to that a rhythm section comprising probably the most sought after piano-bass tandems – the Curtis Brothers, Zaccai and Luques. And as if that could not be topped, Lynch has a barnstorming percussion section led by the thunderous Obed Calvaire, who eggs on an inspired Pedrito Martinez, Little Johnny Rivero and the already-legendary Anthony Carrillo. One might speculate how much more of an Ekpe/Abakuá encounter this might have been with Román Díaz, but barring the absence of vocals in the monumental Brian Lynch composition ‘Madera Latino’ dedicated to Woody Shaw, the music is as close to the bluest part of the Afro-Caribbean flame as Lynch could possibly bring it without burning itself out. As it happens, few trumpeters could have put their minds to furthering the already fecund imagination of someone as widely-read as Woody Shaw. Brian Lynch seems to have the perfect credentials for the job. He is one of the most brilliant technicians on the instrument and even if he is not as endowed with the gifts that Shaw was, Brian Lynch is easily as intrepid as his honouree. It is hard, in fact, to think of anyone who is such a rank outsider by birth to be considered as close to a blood-relative of cultural geography of South American (i.e., Latin-Jazz) music.
Brian Lynch is clearly a mystically-inclined instrumentalist. He proves this, time and again, with growing intensity, and with every new recording he makes. Lynch seems to have reached the height of his powers on this performance. He plays with superb intonation and velvet power, and he displays an amazing range, spatial definition and Shavian manners. Moreover, the trumpeter has digested Woody Shaw’s music spontaneously, as if he were a ‘method’ trumpeter along the lines of a trumpet-playing James Dean. The results are immediately and consistently compelling, as if Lynch’s response to an Afro-Caribbean Shaw were primarily to his relationship with the composer as some sort of kindred spirit. In song after song, beginning with ‘Zoltan’ Brian Lynch identifies the musical elements and colours of Shaw’s music with a deeply concrete curiosity. As the music develops it becomes increasingly infused with warmth and resolve. Much of this has to do with the overarching performances of Sean Jones, Dave Douglas, Michael Rodriguez, Etienne Charles, Diego Urcola, Josh Evans, Philip Dizack, Bryan Davis, and, of course the great Lynch himself.
Unbelievably, in the imagination of each of the individual trumpeters – playing dreamily at times – the lyrical flow of the music is captured as rapturously as when Woody Shaw first felt these emotions and wrote them down in music. Only now Brian Lynch has, through ingenious arrangements, relocated this intimacy to the soundscape of Latin Jazz. The culmination of this extraordinary osmosis finds its pinnacle in ‘Madera Wood’ into which Lynch pours his own spatial dimensions to rewrite the Woody Shaw musical script with his (Lynch’s) own distinctive shape, shading and personality, always vividly alert to the tonal and emotional colouring of Latin polyrhythms, even as he breathes expansive new life into the fervent phrases of the music. As a result of all of this – the re-imaginings of Woody Shaw’s work, as well as the two original compositions by Brian Lynch – the results clearly form a distinct musical vision that, no matter how adventurous a particular piece may be in terms of timbral or technical requirements, never loses sight of the sheer joy of playing Woody Shaw’s music all over again.
- Brian Lynch Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra: Bolero Nights (for Billie Holliday)
- Brian Lynch And Spheres of Influence At Minton’s
- Brian Lynch “Unsung Heroes” Project
Brian Lynch – Madera Latino is a 59th Edition Grammy Awards Nominee in the Best Latin Jazz Album Category
Track List: Zoltan; Sweet Love of Mine; Time Is Right; Just a Ballad for Woody; In a Capricornian Way; Blues for Woody and Khalid; Tomorrow’s Destiny; Joshua C; On the New Ark; Song of Songs; Madera Latino Suite.
Personnel: Brian Lynch: trumpet; Sean Jones: trumpet (3, 6, 7); Dave Douglas: trumpet (1, 5, 9); Michael Rodriguez: trumpet (2, 4, 8, 10); Etienne Charles: trumpet (1, 9, 11); Diego Urcola: trumpet (1, 11); Josh Evans: trumpet (4, 8, 10); Philip Dizack: trumpet (3, 6); Bryan Davis: trumpet (11); Zaccai Curtis: piano; Luques Curtis: bass; Obed Calvaire: drums (2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10); Pedrito Martinez: timbales (1, 5, 9, 11), congas (3, 6, 7); Little Johnny Rivero: congas (1, 2, 4, 5, 8-11), percussion (11); Anthony Carrillo: bongo, campaña (1, 5, 9, 11).