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Woody Shaw: Live: Volume Four

As much as I love box sets, especially those with historical liner notes and essays, sometimes they can seem like too much of a good thing. This occurred to me while poring over Live: Volume Four, a 1981 recording of Woody Shaw’s quintet at San Francisco’s Keystone Korner. Had Highnote chosen to release this music all at once in 2000-the year Volume One dropped-it might have been hard to get to know and fully appreciate all the intimate details of these recordings-and talk about details. Only one of the five tracks lasts less than 10 minutes, and two last upward of 13 minutes.

Shaw and the band-trombonist Steve Turre, pianist Larry Willis, bassist Stafford James and drummer Victor Lewis-don’t waste a second of that time either. “The Time Is Right,” previously recorded in the studio with a large ensemble and vocalist, catches fire with a straightforward quintet reading. Shaw’s “Opec” sounds downright fierce, with the trumpeter’s choice of notes always heading in surprising directions. “Bye Bye Blackbird” borrows the Miles Davis arrangement, but even with Harmon mute in bell, Shaw’s solo stands as its own, exploiting the vast range of his horn for pointed commentary. Turre’s muted work sounds equally hefty, with some exciting double-time lines and punchy riffs.

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