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Woody Shaw: The Complete Muse Sessions

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The past couple of years have seen the late, great trumpeter Woody Shaw belatedly receive more well-deserved recognition. Last year Sony Legacy brought out The Complete Woody Shaw Columbia Albums Collection, a six-CD box set of his 1977-1981 run with that iconic label. Now comes Mosaic’s seven-disc set of comparably top-notch Shaw albums on the smaller (and now defunct) Muse Records in the years bracketing his Columbia experience.

Twenty-nine-year-old Shaw had already made a name for himself by the time he got to Muse in 1974, via sideman work with Eric Dolphy, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and others, and a couple of albums as a leader. By the mid-’70s, mainstream jazz was suffering through tough times, but you wouldn’t know that from Shaw’s work on Muse. His first two albums there are blistering studio efforts, The Moontrane (whose title tune Shaw composed as a teenager for his idol John Coltrane) and Love Dance. “Obsequious,” a fiery Shaw signature piece written by his old Newark running buddy Larry Young, got its initial release on Love Dance, which features a nine-piece ensemble fleshed out with two saxes (Billy Harper, Rene McLean), trombone (Steve Turre), congas (Tony Waters) and percussion (Guilherme Franco). The same tune is also a highlight of Shaw’s third Muse album, The Woody Shaw Concert Ensemble Live at the Berliner Jazztage, with Shaw and trombonist Slide Hampton giving exuberant chase to each other (and saxophonists McLean and Frank Foster doing likewise). Another studio album, Little Red’s Fantasy, follows, its title track a tribute to Maxine Gregg (the mother of Shaw’s son, Woody Shaw III, and future wife of Dexter Gordon). Pianist Ronnie Mathews’ pretty waltz “Jean Marie” is heard both here and on the live album.

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