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Woody Shaw

One of the most gifted and innovative jazz musicians of his generation, trumpeter Woody Shaw navigated the rapidly fluctuating jazz scene of the '70s and '80s to create a lasting body of work that extends his influence well beyond his tragic death at age 44. Born in Laurinburg, NC, on December 24, 1944, Shaw grew up in Newark, NJ. Interestingly, Shaw's father, Woody Shaw, Sr., sang in the gospel group the Diamond Jubilee Singers in the '30s and attended high school in Laurinburg with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie -- a connection that did not go unnoticed by a young musically inclined Shaw. Starting out on bugle, Shaw moved to trumpet at age 11 and continued his studies in music theory while attending an arts high school in Newark. By his teens, Shaw had gained a strong knowledge base in music and was already playing jazz. Early on, he evinced the influence of such artists as Louis Armstrong and Harry James, but quickly fell under the spell of such modern trumpeters as Gillespie, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Kenny Dorham, Booker Little, Lee Morgan, and others. Later on, Shaw would also express much interest in the advancements of saxophonist John Coltrane, whose style and harmonic approach is clearly evident in his playing.

By 1963, Shaw's steady presence on the vibrant Newark jazz scene -- which included such future stars as keyboardist Larry Young and trombonist Grachan Moncur III -- had begun to catch the attention of the greater jazz world, and Shaw found work with Latin percussionist Willie Bobo as well as progressive saxophonist Eric Dolphy. Dolphy even invited Shaw on a tour of France. Sadly, however, Dolphy died from a diabetic coma before Shaw was able to join him in Paris. Undeterred, Shaw left for France and ended up performing in several European countries with a bevy of name artists including pianist Bud Powell, drummer Kenny Clarke, saxophonist Johnny Griffin, and others. Shaw even brought his Newark pals organist Young and drummer Billy Brooks overseas to perform with him and saxophonist Nathan Davis.

In 1964, Shaw returned to the States and began a series of highly formative jobs, beginning with a stint with pianist Horace Silver and continuing with a who's who of jazz artists including pianist Chick Corea, saxophonists Jackie McLean and Booker Ervin, pianists McCoy Tyner and Andrew Hill, and drummer Max Roach. It was during this period that Shaw appeared on several now classic recordings including Silver's Cape Verdean Blues (1965) and The Jody Grind (1966), Larry Young's landmark Blue Note date Unity (1965), and some lesser-known but no less stellar releases like pianist Andrew Hill's Grass Roots (1968). The late '60s also found Shaw pairing with such forward-thinking and avant-garde-leaning saxophonists as Gary Bartz, Pharoah Sanders, Hank Mobley, and Archie Shepp.

The 1970s were a fruitful time both creatively and commercially for Shaw, who formed several inspired working partnerships including stints with saxophonist Joe Henderson, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, and drummer Louis Hayes. It was also during the '70s that Shaw first recorded as a leader and released several influential, forward-thinking albums featuring his by then highly individualized style that mixed harmonically complex post-bop, modal jazz, and nods toward fusion and free jazz. Included in this period are such albums as Blackstone Legacy (1970), Song of Songs (1972), Moontrane (1974), Little Red's Fantasy (1976), and The Iron Men (1977).

Capping off this decade of intense creative output, Shaw signed to Columbia Records and released several more highly acclaimed albums with Rosewood (1977), Woody III (1978) -- named after his son Woody Louis Armstrong Shaw III, who was born that year -- For Sure! (1980), and United (1981). Of the four releases, Rosewood achieved the most acclaim, earning a Grammy nomination and getting voted Best Jazz Album of 1978 in the Down Beat Reader's Poll -- the same poll in which Shaw was picked as Best Jazz Trumpeter of the Year. Although Shaw eventually parted ways with Columbia, he continued to work and record throughout the '80s, releasing a handful of compelling albums, not the least of which included his three sessions with fellow trumpet innovator Freddie Hubbard: Time Speaks (1982), Double Take (1985), and Eternal Triangle (1988) -- most of which are collected on The Complete Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw Sessions.

By this time, Shaw had been diagnosed with an incurable degenerative eye disease and was losing his eyesight. While the disease did not hamper his performing abilities, it would have obviously made the everyday functions of going about one's life, let alone a music career, difficult. Although specifics of the accident are somewhat vague, what is known is that on February 27, 1989, Shaw was struck by a subway car in Brooklyn, NY, which severed his left arm. Subsequently, Shaw suffered complications while in the hospital and died of kidney failure on May 10, 1989.

Although the late '80s had proven to be the most difficult period of Shaw's musical life, with the rise of the Young Lions -- most notably trumpeter Wynton Marsalis -- and the burgeoning renaissance of acoustic post-bop jazz, the seeds were sown for a renewed appreciation of Shaw's music. Like Shaw, Marsalis was not only a classically trained musician, but had spent time as a member of Blakey's Jazz Messengers and, like many of the younger jazz musicians of the '80s, drew much inspiration from Shaw's unique and harmonically progressive approach to improvisation. Shaw recorded with several of these younger musicians, including saxophonist Kenny Garrett on his stellar 1984 Criss Cross debut, Introducing Kenny Garrett. Shaw also brought younger musicians into his own group, including trombonist Steve Turre and pianist Mulgrew Miller, as well as drummers Tony Reedus and Terri Lyne Carrington. In this way, Shaw secured his reputation alongside such icons as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, and Horace Silver as one of the great jazz innovators, bandleaders, and mentors. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi
full bio

Comments

rgrosslaw
Down to the City from college to sit on futons at Rivbea, Joe Lee Wilson's or Ali's Alley until morning. Mind blowing soul filling horn solos. Circular breathing saxaphone and tight loose heavy and light popping and pulsing drums. Composers concepts that went straight into yhe cannon. It doesn't get sny better than that
I've never liked trumpet before till i listen to him. Beautiful!
kleatherbury 1
BEEN A FAN SINCE HEARING THE LP FOR SURE AND I BECAME FAN FOR SURE!!!!
mooyoo.77
I don`t think that a true depiction of the way died.
mooyoo.77
great sound from a trumpet I know so well, after all this is my HOMEBOY.
Bodacious blowin' to knock the socks off the skinny boppers. Brother's Shaw shakes his thang like the future of the planet depended on it. Perhaps it does Babu. Perhaps it does. (Cee Rex)
Horn sound on Light Valley (Live): Deliciously raunchy and fatter than a jook joint mamma. Would definitely like to have this one in my island collection. Listening to this on Novum Cornu Radio. (Cee Rex)
laraiine77
What I can’t believe is that I never heard of him before. This is a rare treasure.
People ask me why I listen to jazz, and I tell them...becau s e I don't like people telling me what to do through my music. Especially if it aint what I want to hear...So you "throw ya hands up" "get down" and whatever they tell you to do...cause I aint doin it
BIG TIME BOPPER!!! Even to jam with Woody using the CD is a cool thing in itself lol. Jazz...the only music one can jam to the CD without being lame with a hairbrush in the shower.
rileyblues
Livinging in NYC and seeing Woody Shaw at the Village Vanguard.... . P r i c e l e
chackenbro
I had the priviledge to see Woody with Carter Jefferson and Steve Turrey a few times at a little hole in the wall jazz club and restaurant in NJ years ago. He was absolutley unbelievable !
good stuff!
hopkinseye
Such a sunny sound! What a blessing that I was able to
hear him at the Keystone b4 it closed. Even then (1979),
he was showing signs of retinitis pigmentosa, a type of
night blindness.
love it
greenbocai
He is and will always be my favorite trumpeter. His music never disappoints and always reminds of why the trumpet is my favorite instrument. I didn't discover his music till after he was long gone so I'll never get the chance to hear him live. I think Little Red's fantasy is probably my favorite tune ever.
A lot of people slept the greatness of Woody. His music was dynamic, innovative, just plain great. I had an original cut 'album' from Stepping Stones that was lost. I have never found another first release cut of that album since. It is like a part of my jazz soul is still missing. That's how tight that session was. Just amazing the way those musicians played off each other. Woody, Carter, Victor, Clint, and Onaje were on a new and different path.
Woody was last in a long line of trumpet innovators who assimilated and then extended the work of his predecessors . Jazz trumpet has not advanced one iota since Woody.
basjazzbuff
I think Woody Shaw was as much of an institution as any trumpet player who has ever played the trumpet. He was incredible.
moses.boone
I remember him well and just listening to him on the internet. His signature of that staccato attack scaling the mountain reminds me of the first time I heard John Coltrane. Fast as a mutha
Ohh... I grew up listening to his music... I didn't understand or appreciate it when I was younger... but now I realize how pure his music really is!...
alvy1splewge
Bad!!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! !

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