After years of big band gigs on the road and in the studio and leading his own poll-winning quintet, alto saxophonist Phil Woods has arranged and recorded Celebration, his own big band album. There are reminders of arrangers Al Cohn, Claude Thornhill, Oliver Nelson, Dizzy Gillespie, Henry Mancini and Quincy Jones in his writing, sounds that, in some cases, recall his early career (the '50s and '60s). Certain charts incorporate a fleshed-out version of his quintet style. The performances are both contemporary and retrospective.
The Festival Orchestra includes Woods' neighbors in eastern Pennsylvania along with his quintet: trumpeter Brian Lynch, pianist Bill Charlap, bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin. The tunes include the Woods compositions "Reet's Neet," a fiery bebop opener; the ballad "Goodbye Mr. Evans," a glowing tribute to Bill Evans; "How's Your Mama?," the quintet's zigzagging, quote-filled theme; and six others.
Woods is one of jazz's most durable and consistent talents. Now he has opened another avenue of expression, and, as you would expect, everything is top-notch.