On March 25, 1963, an alto saxophonist named Jimmy Woods entered a Los Angeles studio to record an album, his second, for the Contemporary label. He had assembled some musicians of note, including tenor saxophonist Harold Land, pianist Andrew Hill and drummer Elvin Jones. Their sessions, which spilled over into the next day, yielded an obscure little gem called Conflict. For reasons no one has publicly aired, it would be the last release by Woods, who would surface as a sideman on just a few more recordings (Gerald Wilson, Chico Hamilton), before withdrawing completely from the scene.
I thought of Jimmy Woods-not to be confused with the actor James Woods, or literary critic James Wood, or bassist Jimmy Woode-after spending four days in Seattle for the EMP Pop Conference, a summit and gabfest hosted annually by the Experience Music Project. Partly this was because the conference encourages its participating critics and scholars (and intrepid audience members, attending free of charge) to reconsider people much like Woods, whom the Los Angeles-based pianist-trombonist Horace Tapscott remembered in his autobiography as “an inspiration to all the modern players around.”