PHIL WOODS QUINTET
Alto saxist Phil Woods is as remarkable for the longevity of his band as for the breadth of his talent: since the quintet’s formation in 1973, bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin have never left, and only three brass players and four pianists have passed through its rarely revolving door. Blistering trumpeter Brian Lynch and Bill Charlap, a pianist highly regarded for his off-kilter humor as well as his technique, fill those chairs today; they’ve learned a good percentage of the couple hundred tunes in the group’s repertoire, and they maintain the same tension between high-powered solos and the rhythm section’s chamber-jazz restraint that their predecessors did. To this day the quintet almost always plays without amplification, a testament to its dynamic balance and cooperative aesthetic–and a good thing for this particular gig, which is at Orchestra Hall. Woods himself, along with Cannonball Adderley, essentially defined the jazz alto after Charlie Parker died in 1955. After Adderley too died at an early age, in 1975, Woods decided to stay clean and sober, and since then he’s maintained not only his health but one of the most recognizable styles in all of jazz. His idiomatic expressions constitute a distinctive slang within the complex grammar of bebop, and even now he can drop a challenger at 20 paces with his chops. His marvelous sound, sleek and ebullient but layered with dark undertones, can still invoke the shouts and moans of the swing-era altoists who inspired him before he’d even heard of Bird. And he brings a masterful wit and flair to the art of musical allusion, a trademark of bebop: on his recent Blue Note recording, The Rev & I, he teams up with a Chicago-born tenor giant, the equally allusive Johnny Griffin, and the disc sometimes plays like a musical version of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Woods’s quintet opens for bop-vocal pioneers Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross. Friday, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by K. Abe.