Woody Shaw: In The Beginning (1965) Muse

First released in 1983 but recorded in 1965 :

Woody-Shaw-In-the-Begining-cover-1800-LJCSelection 1: Obsequious (Young)

Artists Woody Shaw (trumpet) Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone) Larry Young (piano) Ron Carter (bass) Joe Chambers (drums)


Selection 2: Baloo baloo (Shaw)

Artists: Woody Shaw (trumpet) Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone) Herbie Hancock (piano) Paul Chambers (bass) Joe Chambers (drums)

Recorded NYC, December, 1965


Straight ahead cutting-edge hard bop with modal colourings, and a double helping of  Blue Note’s  “best sidemen in town”, including Larry Young unusually on piano, Hancock, Carter, Henderson, Paul Chambers, astonishing line up delivering solid performances in a beautiful recording. There is not a bad track on it, and the different sides having more of your favourite players is a real bonus. Contrast the piano styles of Larry Young with Hancock? Ron Carter with Paul Chambers. A double pleasure.

Woody Shaw has been on the turntable quite a lot here are LJC Towers. To better understand his technical and musical innovation on trumpet, it’s worth quoting some proper musical observations, written by someone who knows what he’s talking about, rather than me. From Shaw’s Wiki:

Shaw was noted for his mastery and innovative use of “wide” intervals, often fourths and fifths, which are considered relatively unnatural to the trumpet and difficult to employ skillfully due to (a) the technical facility required to do so, (b) the architecture of the instrument, (c) the trumpet’s inherent harmonic tendencies based on the overtone series, and (d) its traditional association with intervals based more commonly on thirds and diatonic relationships.


In both his improvisations and his compositions, Shaw frequently used polytonality, the combination of two or more tonalities or keys (i.e. multiple chords or harmonic structures) at once. In his solos, he often superimposed highly complex permutations of the pentatonic scale and sequences of intervals that modulated unpredictably through numerous key centers.


He was a master of modality and used a wide range of harmonic color, generating unusual contrasts, using tension and resolution, dissonance, odd rhythmic groupings, and “over the barline” phrases, yet always resolving his ideas according to the form and harmonic structure of a given composition while adhering to the conventions of jazz improvisation and simultaneously creating new ones.


His “attack” was remarkably clean and precise, regardless of tempo (Shaw often played extremely fast passages). He had a rich, dark tone that was distinctive with a near-vocal quality to it; his intonation and articulation were highly developed, and he greatly utilized the effects of the lower register, usually employing a deep, extended vibrato at the end of his phrases. Shaw also often incorporated the chromatic scale, which gave his melodic lines a subtle fluidity that seemed to allow him to weave “in and out” of chords seamlessly from all “angles”.


Professor Jazz

Professor Jazz

LJC Thinks: Yeah, that’s real music-talk. You don’t have to know this. You can just listen to the music and enjoy it, without knowing any of the technicalities, like driving a car without needing to know what’s under the bonnet (until your alternator goes)

Personally, I think it sharpens your appreciation of what’s going on, tunes up your thinking when you hear other players, helps you get more out of music and navigate other waters.

It also gives you some conceptual hooks on which to hang ideas to communicate about music, which adds interest, like reading wine tasting notes, rather than just getting blotto drinking the stuff. Dissonance, harmonic colouring, poly-tonality. Great! Open another bottle. Let’s drink to music, both pretty intoxicating stuff.

Vinyl: Muse 5298 released 1983

We won’t talk about the cover. I’m just surprised the graphic designer was brave enough to put his name to it. The square drawn around the edge – that would be to help you position the seam-reinforcing  Scotch Tape in a straight line, right?

BLUE-NOTE-DETECTIVE-1200-LJCMuse? Search me. Call in the Vinyl Detectives.  Mosaic’s Woody Shaw: Complete Muse Sessions describes the origin of this recording as  “audition tapes”, originally recorded for Blue Note, “but returned to Woody by Alfred Lion when he experienced remorse after selling his label” ( words by Michael  Cuscuna, I guess)

Woody Shaw was a  talented but still relatively unknown trumpeter, age just 21, and he records a demo tape for Blue Note, bristling with Blue Note heavyweights as sidemen. Extraordinary. Who paid for it?  How often did this happen? What other “audition tapes” exist? Where might it have been recorded and by whom? Discography notes are coy, just “NYC”. Does Englewood Cliffs fall within the city boundary? Search me, I’m a Londoner.

Later released  by Muse on CD the evil silver disc under the name Cassandranite  (Muse MCD 6007),Cassandranite_thumb[3][1] the engineer is credited as one “George Klabin”, who has a long career producing mostly jazz, but  whose earliest noted recording credits start a year later than this recording, 1966 (Albert Ayler Live In Greenwich Village, for Impulse)  Unlikely to be the original recording engineer in 1965 with all those Blue Note artists.

It has to have been recorded like almost all other Blue Note material, by….you know who… and you know where…possible mastered in 1983 for Muse by George Klabin, which would fit with Klabin’s profile. Perhaps our resident RVG stereo expert(s) could take a view on recording, instrument positioning, close mic-ing, reverb, etcetera.  Do we have an engineering fingerprint expert in the house? Does it have RVG qualities for 1965? That close mic-ing of the cymbals sure rings a bell.

The absence of recording credits is itself not unsurprising, as a “demo tape” without any official status, mastered 17 years after its recording, released to complement Shaw’s other Muse records in the ’80s. Not considered “Property of Blue Note”, as given by Lion to Shaw,  and so not discovered by Michael Cuscuna in his Raiders of the Blue Note Vault excercise for United Artists in the ’70s. Now there’s obscurity for you…

The recording date December 1965  can be reconciled with Shaw’s Blue Note  debut on Horace Silver’s Cape Verdean Blues, recorded two months previously on 1st October 1965, and Larry Young’s Unity on November 10, 1965.

According to Wiki, “Shaw returned to the U.S. from Paris in 1965 to replace Carmell Jones in the Horace Silver quintet (1965–1966) and began his career as one of Blue Note Records’ “house” trumpet players”.

 Perhaps that is the key. Shaw was already a known Blue Note session man, one of Horace Silver’s men. Muse’s  In The Beginning contains Shaw’s first try-out as leader for Blue Note, hence the Blue Note resources lavished on the session. The Muse record is a Blue Note, for all intents and purposes. Merely one that got away.


For vinyl pixel-peepers:

What looks like engineer’s initials MCR , and a cryptic 8e, when inverted. (no 9M conspiracy theories, please) Anyone any ideas? Muse, 1983. It’s not George Klabin, so it’s someone else in the production chain


Liner Notes by Blue Note authority Michael Cuscuna further cements the Blue Note status of “In The Beginning”, with Cuscuna bringing it back within the fold of his Blue Note vault discoveries.


Collectors Corner

What a delightful find. I am still speechless at what a beautiful record this is, ’60’s jazz in the Blue Note mould, for not many greenbacks. Muse, indeed.

As always, collectors like to know about sources: another record sourced via Discogs.

The seller invited offers, so I made him a (very reasonable offer), which he promptly refused. Here’s the rub with Discogs, if your offer is refused, you can’t make another. The logic must  be “If you want it enough to make a reasonable offer, you can pay the full bloody price” . Which I now had no choice but to. The postal charge was pretty over the Ebay rate, but no choice again, I sealed the deal. Aha, the boot is now firmly on the other foot, now it’s the seller who wants favours. Could I please mark the Paypal as a gift to family or  friend, (to help him avoid commission). Would I like to BACS him the money direct to his account (from mine, to help him to avoid Paypal charges).  I have always believed business is a two way street, the exchange of favours.

You will have to guess the response. Let’s just say, at this point, the milk of human kindness was beginning to run dry. A minor wrinkle, I’m happy enough, no hassle with the price being bid up, quick delivery, everything went smoothly,  if lacking in the  comforting environment of safety-nets built into Ebay.

Discogs? I say give it a try. Woody Shaw In the Beginning? Essential.

17 thoughts on “Woody Shaw: In The Beginning (1965) Muse

  1. Just stumbled upon this old post.

    LJC, you mention “Mosaic’s Woody Shaw: Complete Muse Sessions” but didn’t look into the discography of that very release? It says right there: “Van Gelder Studio, December 1965”.

    The placement of the drums in the centre is unusual for Van Gelder, but he did it before — first track of “The Cape Verdean Blues” also has drums in the middle. And it also features Woody Shaw!

    • I don’t have the Mosaic. Useful to know it is credited to RVG, thanks, I should have guessed, but he gets no credit on the liner notes. Muse should have credited him. Perhaps there was some legalese why not, who knows.

  2. “He can play different than all of them” Miles Davis on Woody Shaw

    ps oh, and englewood cliffs is in NJ, across the Hudson River from NYC

  3. i also have an original Muse version. The seller, before open a Discogs store, has got a website, i make an offer and i kept one Davis, a Rollins and this gem
    Never discuss about the Joe Henderson tenor statement. Only JC and SR…but Joe? For me strong third position on the tenor (modern) jazz musicians

    • Hey, you speak my language – JC, SR, now JH. There are no arguments about who is in first and second place. The arguments are about who is third and maybe fourth or fifth. HM sits in there somewhere in my view, but he burned out too fast. Lots of other contenders. I love JG too – fastest tenor in the West, and of course my own fellow-countryman TH.

  4. “Does Englewood Cliffs fall within the city boundary?” I vaguely remember reading “Recorded in NYC” in the liner notes of albums actually recorded at RVG studio. Can’t tell exactly at the moment, but I am very sure.

  5. As to whether or not it’s an RVG recording- the piano sounds different (“brighter”/”more vivid”) and the drums are in the center.

    • Where is DGmono when you need him?

      Everything is very crisp, watching the histograms on Audacity as it rips, I have rarely seen such dynamic range – from flat line to the upper threshold constantly occupied, both channels strongly differentiated, but that may be a function of the mastering in 1983, not what was recorded in 1965.

      My thoughts are pure conjecture. A Blue Note try-out, with Blue Note heavyweights, why would you go to the trouble of shipping everyone out into the unknown? In their shoes, what would you have done?

      • Hi LJC – thanks for posting this, because it had somehow passed me by, as did the copy I failed to win last night on Ebay!
        Without wishing to proffer controversy I think it is unlikely that Michael Cuscuna would put down NYC for this date if he thought that there was any chance that it was recorded at RVG. By the time this album was released Michael was already very much the Blue Note historian and could have called Rudy or Woody or any of the other players on the session to find out where it was recorded (he has form on this his notes for Blue Mitchell’s unreleased ‘Step Lightly’ session alludes to conversations with Joe Henderson regarding the line-up for the session).
        If I remember correctly Blue Note rehearsals for recording sessions would happen in NYC before moving to RVG for the real deal. Could it be that a two-track recorder was set up at this venue?
        If I remember correctly Rudy was so busy at this point that he would assign each label a day a week at his studio for their sessions. It would be unlikely that Alfred Lion would use one of these for a try out.
        Against this – as there is probably no proof – there is a tantalising gap in Blue Notes weekly recording sessions for the last week of November 1965, but that may be down to Thanksgiving.

        • I have all those thoughts, but it remains tantilisingly obscure. This wasn’t taped on a whim, on a portable somewhere in a hotel room, it has a lot of class. Everybody is miked beautifully, the final quality is there for all to hear. I have no evidence for it being RVG, but maybe he had in hired help on his day off? May be Cuscuna simply didn’t know. BN historian true, but he can’t know everything.

          Many years ago my band had a small window of studio time at Abbey Road, of Beatles fame, on a Sunday afternoon. It was going spare. These things happen. Perhaps George Martin didn’t work Sundays.

          • As you say tantalising – paperwork could have been thrown away or not kept for a session that wasn’t used. But I’d have thought Woody would have remembered or not remembered where the session took place – if that makes sense – either New York or not at all. The idea of mistaking New Jersey for New York seems less likely. But again it’s an unknown.
            The most important part is that a copy is now winging its way across South London – SW15 to SE21 – which it wouldn’t have been if it wasn’t for your post. And for that I’m really thankful.
            Also would love to hear about your band, does recorded evidence survive?

  6. Woody Shaw is an incredible musician, I wish he recorded more with Blue Note. Love, love, love his playing with Tyrone Washington. Another fantastic performance (and the LP is cheap) is his Live at the Village Vanguard.

  7. I’m very glad to read this post. December 1965 with this squad ! How could it be bad ?

    I’ve bought this record few mounths ago in a record shop where an old collector had let his complete collection of Woody Shaw’s recording….

    An excellent material, for sure. The kind of purchase that seems insignificant but gains value with time and listening!

  8. And what about Joe Henderson?It was recorded between Inner Urge(Nov 64) and Mode for Joe(Jan 66),his best period.A great record indeed!

    • Of course, how remiss of me, Henderson on both sides. He sounds very at home with the latin kick of “Baloo baloo” – fits perfectly with Recorda-me and Blue Bossa on “Page One”. Strange that someone whose tone is “gruff and rasping” should have an affinity with Latin but it works so well.

      I am horrified that there are a lot of Henderson albums on my shelf that have never been put on the blog, that one in particular. So much music, so little time. Look out for future posts, he is under-represented, which will never do.

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