Friday, September 27, 2013

Phil Woods & The Festival Orchestra New Celebration Chiaroscuro 2013

A moving follow up to the Grammy Nominated "Celebration" finds 5-time Grammy and NEA Jazz Master at the very top of his game!
Brent Black /

There are a handful of artists whose music I feel uniquely unqualified to "review." I am of the opinion one does not review genius but you celebrate genius and the life's work of an artist that has made such an impact on improvisational music as Phil Woods. New Celebration is bop oriented big band, a rare bird in today's more contrived commercially oriented sound and while there are some artists making tremendous strides in redefining modern big band, there is but one Phil Woods.

An 18 piece ensemble with pop and vitality that is off the charts finds all but two compositions written and arranged by Phil Woods who now well past 80 is proving not only is there plenty of gas left in the tank but the level of creativity is well past those forty years his junior. The covers here are Johnny Mandel's "Here's To Alvy" and the Al Cohn arrangement of Raye & de Paul's stellar "You Don't Know What Love Is" featuring vocalist Najwa Perkins. Most traditional large ensembles of this nature serve as a mash up for soloists while New Celebration emphasizes a slightly more orchestral approach while still showcasing some of the individual virtuoso talent that makes up the Festival Orchestra which includes some of the finest talent in Wood's home region of the Poconos.

Opening with the rousing "Bop'n Bob Don't Stop" there is an electric intensity that permeates this recording, something special is happening and the ensemble seems to feed off this excitement. Since Charlie Parker there may be three alto saxophonists that have made such a lasting impact to the improvisational music we refer to as jazz and they are Lee Konitz, Art Pepper, and of course the great Phil Woods. While other artists with a similar chronological age are mere shadows of themselves and former glory, Konitz and Woods are continuing to make their lasting legacy a vivid reality for so many lucky fans. It simply does not get better than this!

Tracks: Bop'n Bob Don't Stop; Hank Jones; And It Was Nowhere; Before I Left; Goodbye Mr. Pepper; Get Bird's Word; Ballad For Hank; Shiny Pants; Here's to Alvy; You Don't Know What Love Is.

Personnel: Trumpets: Danny Cahn, Nate Ecklund (Lead), Chris Persad (Soloist), Vanessa Meggiolaro, Eddie Severn, Patrick Dorian; Trombones: Rich Chamberlain (Lead), Sam Burtis, Fred Scott, Jim Daniels (Bass); Reeds: Jay Ratterman, Nelson Hill, Matt Vashlishan, Tom Hamilton, Bob Keller, Jim Buckley, Phil Woods (Soloist); Piano: Skip Wilkins; Bass: Evan Gregor; Guitar: Spencer Reed; Drums: Tom Whaley; Vocal: Najwa Parkins.