It seems impossible that Woody Shaw died as long ago as 1989. He was one of the fallen, a unique flame of brilliance, extinguished too soon. Steve Turre made 14 records with Shaw, and attributes the realization of his own artistic identity to Shaw’s guidance and encouragement. Woody’s Delight is, loosely and creatively, a tribute album. There are no Shaw tunes, but his presence is a recurring resonance, sometimes distant, sometimes near.
The most obvious connection is the format. Shaw’s bands with Turre had a trumpet/trombone frontline. Turre uses five trumpet players, three well known, two not; all different, all strong. None sound like Shaw but they share his taste for adventure.
The youngest is Freddie Hendrix, a new name to watch. He takes a veering solo on “3 for Woody” that ascends to spitfire catharsis. (There are direct references to Shaw in the open modal spaces of the tune and in the hard-charging head.) The most unusual is 83-year-old Chocolate Armenteros, pleasingly strident on “Manny’s Mambo.” The title track is a blues in G-minor, an idiom Shaw loved (think “Rahsaan’s Run”). Jon Faddis’ solo is risky yet elegant, wildly fast but with long, slow slides. Wallace Roney’s finely etched, muted rendering of the heartfelt ballad, “In Retrospect,” is personal and passionate. Claudio Roditi communicates joy (on his own “Annette’s for Sure”) or sadness (on “Adios Mi Amigo”) with equal immediacy.
As for the leader, Turre’s work confirms the general popular and critical consensus that he is the foremost trombonist in jazz. Every solo is a cogent, complete essay without an inconsequential note. But his achievement here is larger. This album is a meditation and an act of faith, affirming that when an artist’s spirit is preserved in music, it is never lost.