Woody Shaw – In Case You Haven’t Heard
Here is a transcription of Woody’s solo on In Case You Haven’t Heard taken from the 1976 album Little Red’s Fantasy.The chord sequence consists of 4 lydian chords a minor 3rd apart with 8 bars spent on each chord. For the first chorus of his solo, Woody trades 8s with the drums, then 4s for the second chorus before soloing continuously for the final two choruses.
One interesting device Woody uses frequently is the use of the minor third over a lydian chord – for example, see bars 6, 20, 52 and 77. The sound he creates sounds in some cases more like a dominant flat9 chord based on the note a semitone lower than the root (for example, F#7 flat9 instead of G lydian). It is probable that the musicians discussed beforehand ideas to try out as when Woody starts playing notes outside the lydian scale the pianist, Ronnie Matthews, supports him with chords outside the lydian scale.
Woody also uses some more familiar pentatonic language, often using the II pentatonic scale (eg. E flat pentatonic over D flat maj7#11 at bar 1). He also uses pentatonic material to venture ‘outside’ the harmony – for example, at bars 116-119 he moves swiftly between G flat pentatonic to C pentatonic, then to B pentatonic and ends with E flat pentatonic. This is a very effective passage and shows the excitement that can be generated by a musician skillfully linking together different pentatonic scales.
Woody Shaw – Sashianova
Here is a transcription of Woody’s solo on Sashianova, taken from the album Little Red’s Fantasy. One of the things that strikes me most about this solo is Woody’s time feel. Pretty much everything he plays is perfectly in time, even in the fast semiquaver passages. In bar 35 he gets slightly ahead of himself but still manages to nail the resolution, landing perfectly on the 3rd beat of bar 36. The tonguing on some of these semiquaver passages is incredible – I have some way to go until I can tongue at that speed but I am working on it.
This solo is also notable for the wide range of articulations, dynamics and inflexions used by Woody. At times he plays legato, quietly and sweetly (for example, bars 41-42) but at others he plays aggressively and with strong articulation (for example, bars 49-52). The rhythm section, particularly Ronnie Matthews on piano, do a fantastic job in supporting Woody and allowing him to explore different feels. Woody also uses a range of smears, falls, trills and false fingerings – however, these are used tastefully and sparingly, and provide a contrast to the smooth legato lines also played. I would like to incorporate the use of inflexions into my own playing, but I am also aware of the difficulty of using such devices artistically and not just for the sake of it. Woody incorporates them into his lines effortlessly, and only at places where it makes logical sense.
This live album also features Ronnie Matthews and Stafford James, pianist and bassist on Little Red’s Fantasy, as well as Rene McLean (son of Jackie McLean) on saxes and flute. Woody co-led a band with Louis Hayes for a part of 1977, but unfortunately the only recordings of this band are this live album and the studio album The Real Thing.
Two of Woody’s tunes open the album, In Case You Haven’t Heard and The Moontrane. Woody’s solo on The Moontrane is fantastic. The tempo is very fast and the harmony is complicated but Woody plays over it with ease, and with fantastic quaver articulation. My only criticism is that I think he plays too many choruses, by the end you can clearly hear that he is tired and running out of ideas. The next tune is Wayne Shorter’s Contemplation which is a feature for pianist Ronnie Matthews. The last two tunes are Jean-Marie by Matthews and Bilad As Sudan by McLean, and both tunes are strong throughout – McLean and Woody solo especially well on Bilad As Sudan.
The album does have its flaws, as any live album will have, but these are more than compensated for by the vast majority of playing which is inspired. Louis Hayes is a constantly driving force at the drums, propelling the soloists to explore new ideas. Unfortunately, Woody seems to have been recorded poorly and his sound is often quite distant and tinny (the rest of the band generally sound alright). However, this is only a small detraction from the overall high quality of this album.
This album features three Woody Shaw original tunes alongside one tune apiece from pianist Ronnie Matthews and bassist Stafford James. Also featured on this record are alto saxophonist Frank Strozier and drummer Eddie Moore. Most of the tunes have a latin feel to them, with the feel in Tomorrow’s Destiny continuously switching between latin and swing. The playing on this album is strong throughout, particularly from Woody and Ronnie Matthews on piano. The compositions provide the perfect springboards for the flowing and exploratory solos.
Woody solos especially strongly on Sashianova (the tune written by Stafford James) and his own composition In Case You Haven’t Heard. In each of these solos the interplay between soloist and rhythm section is dynamic and continuously pushes the music forward. One thing that particularly struck me about Woody’s playing on this album is the range of articulation and inflexion he employs – spiky staccatos, delicate legatos, bluesy smears and shimmering vibratos are all to be found on this album, along with many other subtle nuances. This is an area of Woody’s playing that I feel I need to explore further.