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Phil Woods: This Is How I Feel About Quincy

Don’t play “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” for Phil Woods. The ever-prolific altoman is still setting the pace at 74. Four recent albums bear eloquent testimony.

This Is How I Feel About Quincy salutes Quincy Jones with Woods arrangements of 11 tunes by Jones plus a Woods original called “Q’s Delight” and a Brian Lynch-penned chart on Jones’ “The Pawnbroker.” The album features Woods’ quintet plus four horns and evokes Jones’ original big band recordings of these tunes. This is all wonderful writing and playing-the ensemble blend, the solos, the rhythm section. Everything.

Woods employs French horn and flute in the ensemble to produce a favorite Jones sonority. Quintet members (trumpeter Lynch, pianist Bill Charlap, bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin) take most of the solos. Charlap stands out-a combination of Count Basie, Hank Jones, Jimmy Rowles and John Lewis. Very tasty, as if his solos had just stepped out of a witty Mancini movie score. With this album, Woods reveals a talent for arranging that has not been displayed as prominently as his playing. What a delight.

Groovin’ to Marty Paich, recorded live in Los Angeles, finds Woods and the 12-piece Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra revisiting Paich’s arrangements for the 1959 album Art Pepper + Eleven plus four other Paich charts. Pianist Christian Jacob directs the band, and it’s exhilarating to hear Woods-with only an hour or so of rehearsal-ingeniously bop and quote his way through the original scores. Paich wrote with linear momentum, harmonic clarity and a knack for integrating soloist and ensemble. His scores on hardcore bebop standards such as “Groovin’ High,” “‘Round Midnight,” “Donna Lee” and “Anthropology” are Woods’ mettle. Drummer Paul Kreibich also impresses with his Mel Lewis-like touch and sound. (Lewis was the drummer on the Pepper album.) Another winner.

Denver producer Graham Carter dreamed up the dream team of Woods and veteran Los Angeles big-band trumpeter Carl Saunders for Play Henry Mancini. The tunes would come from Mancini’s scores for the Peter Gunn television series, but as the project went along some of his movie tunes got into the act as well. The principals work with the Denver-based trio of pianist Jeff Jenkins, bassist Ken Walker and drummer Paul Romaine, and there are full-blown quintet arrangements by Jackson Stock, Gordon Brisker, Scott Tibbs, Jenkins, Saunders and others.

The hornmen zip between written and improvised passages like precision stunt drivers. They squeeze ad-lib phrases into impossible places, swing like mad and display perfect articulation high and low, fast and slow. You’ll laugh out loud at their devious brilliance on tunes such as “Fallout!” and the lovely “Dreamsville.” The alto man sounds uncaged, with bristling runs, speechlike articulation, ingenious sequential phrases and expansive tonal warmth.

Beyond Brooklyn, a more reflective session, includes the late Herbie Mann’s final recorded performance. (Woods and Mann first got together in 1951, jamming at Tony’s Bar in Brooklyn.) The album’s Brazilian-tinged tunes remind us of the flutist’s headstart into the bossa nova idiom that became popular in the early ’60s. The melancholy mood of the bossas and his lovely, lyrical, economical playing imbues the album with poignancy.

Tunes such as Oscar Pettiford’s “Bohemia after Dark” and Charlie Parker’s “Au Privave” reflect the co-leaders’ roots. Ellington’s “Azure” and Mann’s “Another Shade of Blues” take advantage of Woods’ clarinet. A tune called “Jelek” puts the duo in a Herbie Hancock-like harmonic setting-definitely beyond Brooklyn. Various rhythm sections perform with the leaders, and producers Jay and Marty Ashby show up here and there. With this album, Mann checked out on a good note.

Originally Published