Jazz CD Reviews

Phil Woods and The Festival Orchestra – New Celebration – Chiaroscuro

Phil Woods returns for another celebration…

Published on September 23, 2013

Phil Woods and The Festival Orchestra – New Celebration – Chiaroscuro CR(D) 401, 69:22 ***½:

(Phil Woods – alto sax; Jay Rattman – clarinet soloist, baritone and alto sax; Nelson Hill – lead alto sax, flute, clarinet; Matt Vashishan – alto sax, flute, clarinet; Tom Hamilton – tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Bob Keller – tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Jim Buckley – baritone sax, bass clarinet; Danny Cahn, Nathan Eklund, Chris Persad, Vanessa Meggiolaro, Eddie Severn, Patrick Dorian – trumpets; Rick Chamberlain, Sam Burtis, Fred Scott, Jim Daniels – trombones; Skip Wilkins- piano; Evan Gregor – bass; Spencer Reed – guitar; Tom Whaley – drums; Najwa Parkins- vocal (#10) )

Still playing strong into his 80s, Phil Woods continues to both amaze and inspire. In 1997, he was nominated for a Grammy award for Celebration (on Concord Records). Sixteen years later on his second album for Chiaroscuro Records, Woods is back again with some of the same musicians for a reunion date, New Celebration. His Poconos, Pa.-based band members may not be jazz household names, but this 18-piece juggernaut provides ample inspiration for Phil to have written and arranged all but the last two tracks.

Each member of his reed section doubles on the clarinet and nearly all get time on the flute. Four trumpets are featured on each composition so this CD has a heavy brass presence when matched with the four trombones. Recorded over three days this past April and June at Red Rock Recording by Kent Heckman, New Celebration roars from the git-go and never lets up.

Throughout the CD, Nathan Eklund is the lead trumpeter, while Chris Persad has solo duties. The trombone section is lead by Rick Chamberlain. Rick is also the music director of the Festival Orchestra and serves as associate producer, behind producer, Bill Goodwin, who himself has backed Phil Woods for years as his drummer.

Woods honors jazz legends throughout this issue with Hank Jones and Art Pepper getting named tributes and clarinetist Hank D’Amico honored on “Ballad for Hank.” Johnny Mandel’s “Here’s to Alvy” provides still another honor, this time to Al Cohn.

Memorable moments on the CD are numerous. The opening track, “Bop’n Bob Don’t Stop” gives immediate notice that Woods bop oriented tone still swings like mad, especially when backed by the strong ensemble work of the orchestra’s reeds and horns. My favorite pianist, Hank Jones, is lovingly remembered on a track simply titled with his name. It’s a sumptuous ballad, and Woods brings to mind Johnny Hodges with his sensuous tone.

The saxophone section is featured on “Before I Left.” “Goodbye Mr. Pepper” written for Art, is done as a bossa nova, while “Get Bird’s Word” lets four altos solo in modern interpretation to Charlie Parker. “You Don’t Know What Love Is” closes out the CD. Known for an arrangement by Al Cohn for Terry Gibbs’ Dream Band over fifty years ago with Gibbs on vibes, for this version Woods brings in vocalist Najwa Parkins, who gives a soulful rendition of the blues. Parkins’ voice is striking in a manner that she would be a good candidate for a James Bond opening credits theme.

Both big band and Phil Woods fans would do well to pick up this issue and be part of a swinging new celebration.

TrackList: Bop’n Bob Don’t Stop, Hank Jones, And It Was Nowhere, Before I Left, Goodbye Mr. Pepper, Get Bird’s Word, Ballad for Hank, Shiny Pants, Here’s to Alvy, You Don’t Know What Love Is

—Jeff Krow

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