1 February 2019

Album Review: Woody Shaw – Tokyo ’81 and Live in Bremen 1983

Woody Shaw

Tokyo ‘81

(Elemental CD 5990 429)

Live in Bremen 1983

(Elemental CD 5990 430)

Two beautifully presented albums from Elemental celebrating the remarkable talent of trumpeter Woody Shaw, who died far too young, and the pianist Mulgrew Miller, who never quite fulfilled the career expectations which his first recordings promised. Both are superbly recorded live sessions previously unissued.

The Tokyo concert presents a good sample of the music which Woody was developing with this quintet. Steve Turre on trombone provides an unusual second voice; although not in the same class as Woody or Mulgrew, he provides several fine solos. Despite excellent performances there is a feeling that the group had yet to establish an individual character. Elemental have added to the CD a concert performance 2 years later by the Paris Reunion Band which features a powerful solo by Johnny Griffin.

The double CD of the Bremen Concert is much more interesting. In the absence of of Steve Turre both Woody and Mulgrew extend their solos. As a result we can fully appreciate their talent and imagination. The pianist has a fine solo on his own compositions, Eastern Joy Dance and Pressing the Issue, while Woody, who opens the concert in style with You and the Night and the Music, plays beautifully on his own composition The Organ Grinder, dedicated to Larry Young. The selection of tunes makes for some effective contrasts and there are strong solos on every track. Two great musicians are captured performing at the full extent of their talents.

Once again Elemental have recovered some live jazz which is full of interest and of the highest class.


Peter Batten

Woody Shaw, trumpet; Steve Turre, trombone; Mulgrew Miller, piano; Stafford James, bass; Tony Reedus, drums.

Tokyo, July 14 1981

Bremen January 18 1983. As above minus Steve Turre

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