Woody Shaw – Blackstone Legacy – Craft Recordings

by | Aug 16, 2023 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

A strong debut release by Woody Shaw, now in an audiophile LP remaster…

Woody Shaw – Blackstone Legacy – Contemporary/ Craft Recordings #CR00520 – 1971 – 180 gm vinyl (2 LP) – Stereo: ****1/2

(Woody Shaw – trumpet; Gary Bartz – saxophones; Bennie Maupin – saxophones, bass clarinet, flute; George Cables – electric and acoustic piano; Ron Carter & Clint Houston – acoustic and electric bass; Lenny White – drums)

Woody Shaw was an extremely important jazz trumpeter, who only lived to age 44, but had a profound effect on the jazz scene throughout the decades of the 1970s and ’80s. Noted for his brilliant, intense playing, with highly technical and innovative skills, Woody won Downbeat Magazine Readers Poll as Best Trumpeter in 1978, as well as winning Best Jazz Album the same year for his Rosewood release.

Craft Recordings is now releasing Shaw’s debut album, Blackstone Legacy, in a two LP 180 gm vinyl, in a gorgeous gatefold tip-on jacket. Recorded in late 1970, it is considered a landmark post-bop release, comparable to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, for its steamy mix of electronic jazz, and heavy use of electric piano, backed by two bass (Ron Carter and Clint Houston). The drum chair was held down by the poly-rhythmic talents of Lenny White.

What makes Shaw’s debut as a recording leader so striking was Woody’s passion in tackling the political and social issues of the 1960s to reflect his dedication to “freedom of black people all over the world, as well as his anger over the condition of black neighborhoods in the United States. Woody used the word, “blackstone” to reflect an image of black strength, and wanted his music to be a “light of hope” and a “sound of strength.” His hope  was to  help the African American community “reach a state of spiritual enlightenment.”

All the tracks on the album were written by Shaw, except for his pianist, George Cables’ two compositions, “New World,” and “Think of Me.” Throughout the album, there is much pure improvisation, based on a minimal framework. Song length varies from nine to seventeen minutes, leaving his band to take extensive solos. Shaw’s technical facility with great articulation, coupled with blistering speed, is on full display all thru the album.

Woody’s front line mates, Bennie Maupin and Gary Bartz, deeply contribute to the musical stew, with Maupin’s bass clarinet, and Gary’s alto sax constantly stirring the pot. The rhythm section of Cables, bassists, Carter and Houston, and Lenny White’s propulsive drums never let the intensity soften. There are many free/avant sections, but Woody’s devotion keeps the charts from going too far off the rails.

There is controlled chaos on the near 17 minute title track from the horns, but Cables’ piano fills aids in “digesting” the wildness. George’s “Think of Me” is very approachable, with a strong level of sophistication. “Lost and Found” is a musical statement of the fallow period in Shaw’s early career when gigs were few, and he was looking for a new musical direction. There is a feeling of “peering over the edge” during Maupin’s solo.

“New World” is a blend of funk and fusion, with a laying down of of a bass heavy foundation. Cables aids in serving up a melange to a near boil. The kettle eventually blows its top, led by Shaw’s blistering choruses, before the tune moves back in a bluesy direction by the saxophones. 

“Boo-Ann’s Grand” is a jazz love letter by Woody for his wife, Betty Ann Shaw, honoring her strong sense of intuition. I loved the ballad section, mid-tune. The release ends with a dedication to Eric Dolphy, “A Deed for Dolphy,” where Woody honors one of his main mentors. It features a haunting flute by Bennie Maupin. Dolphy helped Woody Shaw expand his sound palette, and it shows throughout this magnificent debut album, quite a mature accomplishment for an artist well under 30 years old on its release.

Woody Shaw would go on to new heights, till the jazz world lost him nineteen years later. His first album as a leader, now released in an all-analog remastering from the original tapes, is a must-have for his fans.

—Jeff Krow

Blackstone Legacy

Tracklist:

Side One:
Blackstone Legacy

Side Two:
Think of Me
Lost and Found

Side Three:
New World

Side Four:
Boo-Ann’s Grand
A Deed for Dolphy

From Craft Recordings

Album Cover for Woody Shaw Blackstone Legacyf



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