United (1981)

This album was recorded with Woody’s working band of the period, and features Steve Turre (tbn), Mulgrew Miller (pno), Stafford James (bs) and Tony Reedus (dr). This was Woody’s second working quintet and was formed in late 1980, disbanding in July 1983. Gary Bartz also guests on alto for two tunes, What Is This Thing Called Love and Blues For Wood.

This album has been seen as heralding a more straight ahead approach for the new quintet. Woody is definitely the star of the show, with far more solo space than anyone else, but his playing is always strong and full of ideas. The pentatonic approach is less evident on this recording than in some previous recordings. One aspect of Woody’s playing noticable on this album is an increased use of incredibly fast scalic runs, a device often used by Freddie Hubbard. Two of Woody’s compositions on this album are based on other tunes – The Green Street Caper is based on the chords to On Green Dolphin Street, while the chords to Blues For Wood are similar to those in Mingus’ Nostalgia In Times Square. Mulgrew Miller’s tune Pressing The Issue is probably the tune most linked to what Woody had been doing in the 1970s, featuring strange harmonies and wierd chord changes for the soloists to explore, and Woody solos brilliantly on this tune. It also features the juxtaposition of swing and latin feels found in many tunes on Woody’s albums up to this point. Whilst this album could in some ways be seen as a backward step in Woody’s forward thinking approach, the playing on the album is very strong throughout and the players manage to keep up a stream of fresh ideas despite revisiting some tunes and chord changes from the past.