Selection: The Moontrane (Shaw)
Woody Shaw (trumpet) Steve Turre (trombone) Azar Lawrence (tenor,soprano saxophone) Onaje Allan Gumbs (piano, electric piano) Buster Williams (bass) Victor Lewis (drums) Tony Waters (congas) Guilherme Franco (percussion) recorded Blue Rock Studio, NYC, December 11 & 18, 1974
We like Woody Shaw at LJC and we like Muse, and we like The Moontrane, Woody Shaw’s signature composition. Not to miss the opportunity to take a closer look at the musicians found in Shaw’s company at the end of 1974, Azar Lawrence and Steve Turre.
Born in the early ’50s, tenor Saxophonist Azar Lawrence, not a name I had registered,arrived on the mid ’70s jazz scene. This title would be among his early recording sessions, just into his twenties. He was closely associated with McCoy Tyner’s journey through the ’70s, and his discography as leader has more than a whiff the of spirituality and mysticism: Bridge Into the New Age, Summer Solstice, Prayer for My Ancestors, The Seeker, Mystic Journey, People Moving… you get the picture, book me into that personal development seminar, oh, and the Introduction to Crystal Therapy.
Trombonist Steve Turre was another new arrival on the 70s jazz scene, both at a time when the jazz audience had largely moved on to other directions, so you have to admire these young players making the musical choices they did. Perhaps taking his lead from Yusef Lateef, Turre went on to carve out a unique niche playing sea shells with a collection of shells of various sizes which picked up by him during his travels, wandering around beaches in the Carribean (sounds a smart way to spend your time, beachcombing in the Caribean). Turre’s Sanctified Shells, is a “shell choir” made up of brass players who double on seashell: Shaw sells sea shells on the sea shore?
By steadfastly resisting the 70’s siren call of jazz-rock fusion and soul-funk, Woody Shaw’s music offers up a body of fresh and stimulating work much to the taste of those weaned on the golden age of the preceding decade. In the immortal words of the eponymous Amazon auto-reviewing app, if you like this sort of music, you will find a lot of music here you’ll like. Works for everything!
Vinyl: Muse MR 5058 stereo, Bell Sound stamp, 150gm vinyl.
I recently picked up another Woody Shaw album on Muse, Setting The Standard, I thought great! But just when you think you know it all, along comes a low ball.
The line up is tremendous… it’s Muse….it’s recorded and mastered by Van Gelder….at Englewood CliffsHow can it miss? Wait, it’s French??? You mean French, like in Europe?
The label has the French royalties agency stamp SACEM, the cover was printed in France. The vinyl is paper-thin and weighs just 94 grams, thinnest record I own bar one (92 grams). The matrix has some questionable additions which suggest multiple attempts at mastering. It has a PRC etching (the Richmond Indiana pressing plant) – was Indiana, France? Who’s are the initials MCK? What does that hand-drawn symbol of the letter O with a line half through it mean? Whatever Van Gelder mastered it wasn’t the source of this pressing (His Muse masters bear the stamp “MASTERED BY VAN GELDER”).
It suffers puffy booming bass and top quarter of the dynamic range has disappeared, no cymbals, among the worst sounding records in my collection, it sounds horrible. Worse, the cover looks horrible. Photographer Alice Su takes backlit photo of Woody, forgets to bring fill-in light or reflector, Woody’s lost in shadow, classic how not to.
With so many good indicators, how could it go so horribly wrong? Sometimes that’s vinyl for you, the occasional disappointment is part and parcel of collecting. Dust yourself off, onward.
One of the interesting things about jazz is there are near-unlimited byways and highways to explore, both in artists and labels. Wander along the shoreline, a jazz-beachcomber, picking up conch shells, or any item of passing interest, some of it of no account which can be discarded, some of it a surprising find.
“Jazz is the Sound of Surprise” (Balliett) The same is true for the jazz collector, life is full of surprises. Just not all of them nice ones.