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Flip Phillips: Live at the Beowulf

Flip Phillips, the star tenor soloist with Woody Herman’s first Herd and later a popular feature on the Jazz at the Philharmonic tours, stayed active until his death in 2001, recording with fellow saxophonists Joe Lovano and James Carter as late as 1999 when he was 85. More than 20 years earlier, he had recorded the music on the two-CD Live at the Beowulf (Arbors) during a three-year engagement at the south Florida club near his home. In his early 60s at the time, Phillips still played like a man in his prime. His beautiful Ben Webster-influenced tone was still exquisite, his rhythmic drive still unrelenting, and his inventiveness still amazingly expansive. Although Phillips’ repertoire included jazz classics by Duke Ellington, Oscar Pettiford and others, along with popular standards (his arrangement of “Body and Soul” suggests the famous Coleman Hawkins version), it also acknowledged his fondness for such then contemporary pop songs as “After the Lovin'” and “I Won’t Last a Day Without You.” Interestingly, for one track the great tenorist switched to bass clarinet and for another to soprano saxophone, but his venerable style remained unchanged.

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