Blackstone Legacy (1970)

Blackstone Legacy is Woody’s debut album as a leader and features Gary Bartz and Bennie Maupin on saxophones, George Cables on keyboards, Ron Carter and Clint Houston on basses, and Lenny White on drums. The album is regarded as Woody’s answer to Bitches Brew, released the previous year, and some of the tracks are very reminiscent of the Miles Davis classic – the free funk number New World sounds particularly indebted to Miles. However, Blackstone Legacy is more than an attempt to copy Miles’ achievements, and some of the tunes are more reminiscent of an Ornette Coleman time-no-changes feel – for example, the up-tempo Lost and Found.

Whilst the playing on the album is generally extremely inventive and interesting to listen to, Woody at times sounds at times like he is trying a bit too hard, resulting in overblowing and a diminishing of tone quality, as well as occasionally a shaky time feel. However, having said this, his playing on a few of the tracks is inspired, particularly on New World. He sounds very similar to Freddie Hubbard in places, but you can also hear occasions where his own unique voice and harmonic language burst through. The lengthy solos and harmonic freedom give all the soloists a chance to experiment and try out new ideas.

Woody wrote four tunes for the album, with George Cables supplying the other two. The written heads are all interesting in themselves and serve as suitable springboards for lengthy improvisations. Woody’s compositions Blackstone Legacy and Boo-Ann’s Grand are particularly compelling and provide an insight into how Woody was approaching music at this time – I will definitely be transcribing these tunes and trying them out myself.

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