Rosewood (1977)

Rosewood is the first Woody Shaw album I ever heard and it is a fantastic record, fully deserving the award of Best Jazz Album of 1978 in the Down Beat reader’s poll. The album is built around the quintet of Woody Shaw (tpt), Joe Henderson or Carter Jefferson (tnr), Onaje Allan Gumbs (pno), Clint Houston (bs) and Victor Lewis (dr) – however, on most tracks these musicians are augmented by a “concert ensemble” including flutes, saxes, trombone, percussion and harp.

Woody composed most of the tunes, with the sidemen Victor Lewis, Onaje Alan Gumbs and Clint Houston submitting a tune each. Most of the tunes on the album are up-tempo with a latin or samba feel to them, and the pulsating, energetic latin grooves provide the perfect canvas for Woody to showcase his masterful use of pentatonic scales to alternate between “inside” and “outside” playing. This is the case both on tunes with fast moving chord sequences, such as Rosewood, and on more modal tunes such as The Legend of the Cheops and Isabel, the Liberator. Rahsaan’s Run is the most straight-ahead number on the album, an extremely fast blues based on sus chords in the manner of Miles Davis’s Eighty One. Another Davis influence is evident on the introduction to Sunflowers which sounds incredibly similar to the introduction to In A Silent Way, the second tune on Miles’s 1969 album of the same name.

Woody is in incredible form on this recording, and there is much I can learn from his playing. His time and articulation are impeccable, even though most of the tunes are played at seriously fast tempos. His explorations of “outside” harmony are measured and confident, and his resolutions are often exquisite. This is definitely a record made by a musician at the top of his game. I have transcribed Woody’s solo from Rosewood and will hopefully post it on this blog soon complete with analysis. Then I will move on to transcribing some of the other solos as there is much for me to learn from this album.


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