Woody Shaw: The Moontrane (1974) Muse

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Selection: The Moontrane (Shaw)

Artists

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

Music

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.

Recorded at Blue Rock Studio, NYC, the Bell Sound stamp in a small italic script in the runout indicates mastering elsewhere at Bell Sound Studios.
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Bell Sound was home to renowned mastering engineer Sam Feldman, whose initials “sf” are often found next to the studio stamp (though not in the case of Moontrane). Illustrated, left, on a Cobblestone title, Grant Green’s Iron City the Sam Feldman “sf” (click pic to get close up)
PRC-stamp-Richmond-Indiana-Woody-Shaw-The-Moontrane-labels-1800-LJCThe run-out does however have  the tiny initials PRC hand etched close to the label, which is the mark of PRC Recording Company (previously Richmond Record Company) 1600 Rich Road, Richmond, Indiana, whose services included vinyl plating and pressing and label printing.
Like many independent record labels, Muse sought out independent pressing plants – all my Muse pressings have either ARP or PRC etchings for the pressing plant – and independent mastering engineers, Bell Sound and even Van Gelder on some titles. Independents had to be good to survive, and the combination of talent in both music and vinyl  manufacture make 70’s label Muse, along with the likes of Cobblestone and Xanadu, sterling exceptions to the mounting mediocrity emerging from the majors and the mainstream.
LJC-ipedia. Anything else you would like to know, go whistle.

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Woody-Shaw-The-Moontrane-backcover-1800-LJC

Collector’s Corner

LJC-Dunce

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?

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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.

BeachcomberOne 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.

 

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7 thoughts on “Woody Shaw: The Moontrane (1974) Muse

  1. Interestingly my copy of Moontrane has the “SF” initials. Perhaps it was a different issue.

    WS was such an underrated trumpeter. I really like his playing on Larry Young’s Unity, one of my favorite albums. My preferred WS album under his own name is the seldom seen and relatively unknown “Blackstone Legacy”. A bit different in style, more like spiritual jazz. It boasts Ron Carter, Gary Bartz and Bernie Maupin on it! Look for it.

  2. One of my favorite Shaw albums. Lucky enough to find a promo label pressing for $10. You might also dig his “The Iron Men” album – great lineup and songs, tacky cover.

  3. ‘The Moontrane’: a StoneColdClassic ™.

    Woody’s finest hour*, including the eponymously titled album.

    One of the best discs of the ’70’s.

    “He can play different than all of them”, Miles Davis

  4. YES! Woody Shaw is (probably) the most underrated player of all-time in my opinion and not enough Jazzhead’s know about him or give him a chance. This album is arguably his masterpiece (some days I lean towards “Little Red’s Fantasy”) and absolutely an essential album for anyone looking for sterling post-bop; a silver lining to 70s jazz. Shaw’s playing was flawless, angular, soulful and groundbreaking. If you haven’t given him a chance – I envy you. I wish I could go back and rediscover his music. His Muse albums are some of my favorite stuff ever. For live stuff – listen to his Village Vanguard work: “Stepping Stones” is unbelievable and Dexter Gordon’s U.S. comeback LP (also from the Village Vanguard) was essentially Shaw’s band featuring Dex. Anyways – all great stuff. Anything Woody Shaw – cheers LJC!

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