The Phil Woods Quintet: American Songbook

The new Swiss record label Kind of Blue has come out swinging with several fine recordings in recent months, and this set of standards recorded by alto sax great Phil Woods and his longstanding quintet is clearly a winner. Surprisingly, pairing Woods and his band with a set of classic tunes from the Great American Songbook hasn’t been done before in the recording studio.

As Nat Hentoff points out in his liner notes, Woods hasn’t really focused on performing standards over the course of his lengthy career. Woods himself states, “Many of my other albums have focused on obscure pieces by Duke Ellington and Oliver Nelson, my originals and blowing sessions.”

But standards are in plentiful supply on this session, and Woods attacks them with energy and verve-ably supported by Brian Lynch on trumpet, pianist Bill Charlap, bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin. There’s plenty of solo space for all concerned, and Lynch’s fine horn solos are especially strong. Woods’ distinctive alto swings strongly on “Foggy Day” and “Let’s Fall in Love,” waxes lyrical on “Every Time We Say Goodbye” and he adds a lovely clarinet solo on “Summertime.” It may have taken quite a while for Woods to record a set of standards, but it was definitely worth the wait.