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Woody Shaw: Bemsha Swing

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For fans of Woody Shaw, Bemsha Swing is manna from heaven. This two-disc set of cleanly recorded ’86 Detroit club performances with pianist Geri Allen, bassist Robert Hurst, and drummer Roy Brooks, establishes that while the trumpeter’s career was declining, and his life tragically unraveling, his creative abilities were still, at least occasionally, at the level of his high-profile ’70s zenith.

The collection contains strong readings of compositions Shaw recorded during his fruitful association with Columbia. He simply nails “Ginseng People,” a treacherously paced Shaw original, building an exciting solo that repeatedly peaks on incisively declaimed, yet elegantly shaped phrases. Shaw’s wonderful ability to blend sheer power with tender lyricism is very much in evidence on his “In A Capricornian Way,” a waltz that alternately sways and surges, and his gift in mixing serpentine lines with jabbing phrases is upfront on his rendering of Wayne Shorter’s “United.”

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