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September 2005

Woody Shaw
Stepping Stones: Live at the Village Vanguard
Columbia/Legacy

When it comes to jazz reissues, the Mosaic label is to box sets what Columbia/ Legacy is to single-album releases: the gold standard. Stepping Stones makes available, for the first time on CD, Woody Shaw’s only live recording for Columbia. (His four Columbia studio albums were reissued in 1992 in the Mosaic box The Complete CBS Studio Recordings of Woody Shaw.) It contains three bonus tracks and vibrant sound (due to Mark Wilder’s mastering using Sony’s DSD technology). It also provides three new, moving, illuminating sets of liner notes by Shaw’s son Woody III, producer Michael Cuscuna and Shaw’s sideman and close friend Steve Turre.

Stepping Stones is one of the greatest albums ever made at the Village Vanguard—a large but justified claim. Shaw’s classic quintet (Carter Jefferson, Onaje Allan Gumbs, Clint Houston, Victor Lewis) absolutely smokes the challenging material, and the energy is all but overwhelming. The leader is beside himself, slashing and cracking and soaring. Yet Shaw is also capable, as on “In a Capricornian Way,” of a flickeringly ornate cornet solo. On “Escape Velocity,” he follows the clarion shrieks of Jefferson’s crisis with a more elegant catharsis of his own.

In 2005, if you want to hear envelope-pushing trumpet music of the future, play 27-year-old Woody Shaw records.

Originally published in September 2005
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