The Weirdness

Woody Shaw
Song of Songs 
Contemporary : 1973

WS, trumpet; Emanuel Boyd, tenor sax and flute; George Cables, electronic piano; Henry Franklin, bass; Woodrow Theus II, drums. 

Looking back, 1973/74 was probably when we hit Peak Weirdness. Formerly inside cats who cut their teeth with Blue Note in the 1960s — e.g., Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, and today’s poster boy Woody Shaw — headed Out, if briefly, for points unknown. New York, Chicago, West Coast, and Euro players were mixing it up. The fusion of divergent styles hadn’t yet calcified into capital-F Fusion. Miles was digging deep into the bedrock. And that’s not even getting into the whole Nixonian psychodrama that was unfolding all over the land…

So out of this progressive musical stew and agitated historical moment emerges “The Awakening.” It’s a fairly strange slice of Mwandishi-inspired soundscaping — and different from what people normally associate with Woody Shaw. Moving from open atmospherics to funky back-beat and back again, the tune ebbs and flows under the masterly hand of bandleader Shaw, who does most of the soloing. Cables supplies some truly oddball knob-twiddling and other supporting noises, while Franklin and Theus ride out the waves in strong sympathy with each other, throwing in some of their own freak grace notes. It’s all over before you can even muster a “Wow, man.”

Finally, a side note: what is it about trumpeters and longevity — Lee Morgan, Mongezi Feza, Clifford Brown, Shaw himself at 44, in 1989. We lose them too early!

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