Woody Shaw: The Complete Muse Sessions (#255)

Mosaic Records Limited Edition Box Set


Woody Shaw: The Complete Muse Sessions (#255)
Lester Bowie of the Art Ensemble of Chicago has said, “I think of Woody as one of the great neglected talents of this century.” Freddie Hubbard, the trumpeter with whom Woody is often too flippantly compared and who collaborated with him in the 1980s, simply said “Woody was bad.” And no less an authority and critic than Miles Davis said, “There’s a great trumpet player… He can play different from all of them.”
Limited Edition: 5,000 copies

7 CDs -  $119.00


The Set That Could Make Woody Shaw
Your Favorite Trumpeter In Jazz

If you are familiar with Mosaic, you know about our passion for jazz. Our bred-in-the-bones need to "get it right." Our devotion to perfection in every detail. And when we are able, our conviction to expose the injustice of greatness overlooked through our limited edition box sets.

We are delighted to have a second opportunity to print the name "Woody Shaw" across a Mosaic collection, this time for his Muse jazzrecordings spanning nearly his entire creative life. (Our box set #142 -- his Complete Columbia Studio recordings which chronologically came in-between the Muse dates from the seventies and eighties -- sold out long ago.)

Included in the new collection are the mid- to late-1970s recordings that established his musical identity, and saw him break through as an inspiring and influential musician and bandleader. Also included are the Muse sets from his return to the label from 1983 through 1987, where as a mature musician he displayed his range on the instrument and his appreciation for music of many jazz disciplines. The "Complete Muse" concept allows us also to present Woody's very first set from 1965 when he was just 20 years old. Originally recorded for Blue Note but returned to Woody by Alfred Lion when the record company founder experienced remorse over selling his label, it became a Muse set years later.

He was denied fame more than once. Woody Shaw hit his prime when fusion was the rage and there was no cohesive jazz scene to support his career and recognize his innovations. A freak subway accident led to the kidney failure that claimed his life in 1989, far too early for his genius to be sufficiently appreciated by the public.

A Musicians' Musician

But if fans of jazz music do not often mention his name, the players know and remember.

Frequent collaborator and friend, the saxophonist Gary Bartz, called him "the next step that began with Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden and King Oliver, followed by Dizzy, Roy Eldridge and Miles and then by Lee Morgan and Clifford Brown, and the next step was Woody." Lester Bowie of the Art Ensemble of Chicago has said, "I think of Woody as one of the great neglected talents of this century." Freddie Hubbard, the trumpeter with whom Woody is often too flippantly compared and who collaborated with him in the 1980s, simply said "Woody was bad." And no less an authority and critic than Miles Davis said, "There's a great trumpet player… He can play different from all of them."

Evidence that his intelligence and curiosity would lead to great things started early.

Many Ways To Play

There were so many ways Woody Shaw could approach a tune. He would slip in and out of a modal approach and play within the chord. Or lay other key signatures on top of what the band was playing, resolving dissonance at just the right moment to make it all coherent.

A flawless attack and roundness of tone throughout the instrument's register, top to bottom, are other hallmarks of his playing, and made his ballad work bell-like and passionate. Numbers that demanded a more hard bop interpretation got an urgent and driving propulsion from Woody's ability to push out incredibly intricate runs at blinding speeds.

Woody Shaw provides one of the best examples in jazz history of someone who ceaselessly accepted the temptation jazz presents to approach with wonder and confidence, expecting danger -- and triumphed over it. His success can be heard throughout the limited edition box set collection.

A student of great bandleaders, Woody Shaw became one himself, and these sessions provide ample evidence of that from three different eras. The earliest session, from his tenure as a Blue Note stable player, includes Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Paul Chambers and Joe Chambers. The 1970s sets include Steve Turre, Azar Lawrence, Onaje Allan Gumbs, Buster Williams, Victor Lewis, Cecil McBee, Rene McLean, Billy Harper, Joe Bonner, Frank Strozier, Ronnie Matthews, Stafford James, Eddie Moore, Frank Foster, Louis Hayes, Arthur Blythe, Anthony Braxton, and Muhal Richard Abrams, among others. In the 1980s, he played with Cedar Walton, Victor Jones, Kenny Garrett, Kenny Barron, and others.

Nine individual Muse albums are represented on our seven-CD limited edition box set. The collection includes many rare photographs from the time. The set was co-produced by Woody Shaw III, who has devoted his life to preserving the legacy of his father and that of his stepfather, Dexter Gordon. He also contributed the essay and track-by-track notes. As with all the Mosaic limited edition jazz collections whose masters we license, it will be available only for a short time and then never again in this form.

We urge you to re-examine the importance of this gentle giant by claiming a copy of a box set we expect to disappear quickly.

Read More About Woody Shaw:
Track Listing, Personnel & Recording Dates »

  • Booklet
  • Audio Quality
  • Photography
  • Sample Session Notes
Mosaic Records has always tried to bring the great music in the sets into focus by choosing writers with an expertise and a feel for the spirit of the music and the era in which it was conceived. This set marks the first time that the booklet was written by an offspring. But Woody Shaw III, a musician with degrees in ethnomusicology, jazz performance and arts administration, has dedicated much of his adult life to the study and curation of his father’s work and we found the ideal candidate to create the time and the place for us to bring the music alive.

This set encompasses the two periods during which Woody Shaw recorded for Muse Records (1974-77 and 1983-87). Both bodies of work are marked by a consistency of excellent recorded sound. The ‘70s sessions were cut at Blue Rock Studios on Greene Street in lower Manhattan by the every underrated Eddie Korvin, who always captured the density and depth of Woody’s music with clarity and ease. The ‘80s sessions brought Woody back to the site of all his classic ‘60s Blue Note appearances, Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. In every case, we found excellent master sources and Malcolm Addey’s mastering gives this set a beautiful unified sound.

Photo Copyright © Protected
Woody Shaw
Although no session photographs have emerged for the music on this set, Woody Shaw played live with most of the sidemen on these nine albums on a regular basis. Many of his public performances were in San Francisco, a city in which he once lived and where he was a frequent artist at Todd Barkan’s “Keystone Korner.” He loved the town, the club and the people so we tapped into SF photographer Tom Copi’s vast archive for wonderful images and Woody and most of the principal sidemen in the set. Ron Warwell who shot and designed the cover for Woody’s first Muse album contributed four beautiful portraits.

(A & B) Cassandranite - December 1965

Two of the five compositions on this date were written by Woody, and for reasons perhaps unknown to anyone, neither one of them was ever recorded again. The album kicks off with its mid-uptempo title piece, Cassandranite, showcasing many of what would gradually become idiosyncratic elements of Woody’s vocabulary. Already, we hear the influence of Eric Dolphy in Woody’s writing, with the use of bi-tonality, synthetic scales, the use of extended harmonies, wide intervals, substitutions, and complex rhythmic phrasing and runs commonly heard on saxophone or piano but less so on trumpet. Given the ambitious and somewhat maverick nature of the repertoire chosen for this date, it should be no surprise that Woody chose the musicians that he did. Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Larry Young, Ron Carter, Paul Chambers, and Joe Chambers are all heard on this date. Suffice it to say, Woody chose the best men for the job.

Following Cassandranite is Larry Young’s composition, Obsequious, a piece Woody recorded at least once more and performed countless times throughout his career. Starting as early as January of 1965, Woody began important collaborations with Larry in Paris after having lived there for several months following an invitation from Nathan Davis on behalf of their mentor, Eric Dolphy. Larry and Woody, musical partners from Newark’s local jazz scene, and both attendees of Arts High, shared a special connection that is conveyed in all of Woody’s music. As he states in an interview:

“Larry was the first musician I worked with who utilized the pentatonic scale, and he turned me onto African and Oriental music to hear the many different kinds of music made in this scale. I realized after listening to these records, you don't need a lot of notes to make complex, intricate and brilliant music, and less is often more... Sometimes I think I should have named ‘The Moontrane’ ‘The Youngtrane’, since it was as much a tribute to Larry Young as it is to John Coltrane.”

Larry, as it turns out, plays piano and not organ, on this date. As with Cassandranite, Obsequious establishes the character of Woody’s music and his concept as well as the origins and inspiration from which they came. "I attribute much of my harmonic knowledge to Larry Young, who got it through Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. It's all part of tradition which is very much part of my music and always will be.” Joining Woody and Larry on Cassandranite and Obsequious is Ron Carter on bass.

Baloo Baloo switches up the vibe with a bossa-type groove laid down by Herbie Hancock, Paul Chambers, and Joe Chambers (no relation). In contrast to the two opening pieces, Baloo Baloo is probably closest to what might characterized a more accessible riff-based tune, showcasing Woody’s talent for structured musical direction and his capacity for balancing a performance with an interesting variety of styles and conceptual material. In Baloo, as well as in the following track Three Muses, the presence of another one of Woody’s formative influences can also be heard - Horace Silver, someone who shaped his approach as a band leader as well. “This (Horace’s band) is what initiated me into planning good record dates, you know, in the way that material falls, and how long a tune is... Horace’s music requires a lot of discipline. I learned a lot about form and structure from playing in Horace’s band.” Three Muses, while notably different from many of my father’s more well-known compositions, like Little Red’s Fantasy, represents Woody as a true student of his craft, never disregarding the opportunities afforded by simplicity and always maintaining a respect for the fundamentals.

Closing the date is Joe Henderson’s Tetragon, a mid-tempo blues written in a characteristically Henderson fashion, containing some of the elements that perhaps likened Woody to Joe’s approach and which made them compatible until the very end. Herbie Hancock and Paul Chambers replace Ron and Larry on the three final tracks.

Although this album was not released until many years after it was recorded, the time, planning, and quality of the effort put into it is self-evident to this day. Woody was known as a disciplined leader who treated the music with the utmost seriousness and respect. From his choice of personnel and the ease with which they treat some of this material, it is equally evident that Woody knew early on how to select a good band. This group of musicians, as much as any, shared Woody’s sentiment of building upon a tradition of excellence. Though only his first album, Cassandranite remains one of Woody Shaw’s complete and well-crafted recordings, presenting the vast range of musical knowledge that comprised his arsenal at the young age of 20 years old. In retrospect, Cassandranite was an undeniable indication of great things to come.


Click here to write a review

  A wonderful listening experience
This is a wonderful set. Woody Shaw is an underrated composer and improviser who deserved to be much more famous. These recordings provide hours of exciting and beautiful music. I never owned the original Muse lps so I cant comment on the sound quality, but the music itself is great. The booklet is, as always with Mosaic, another reason to get this set. Highly recommended.
  A Slightly Uneven Set
My introduction to Woody Shaw came via the Dexter Gordon Homecoming LP back in the 70s. At about the same time I heard him live, twice. I would count myself a fan. This collection of CDs contains some great work, but it also features a fair amount of music that is stuck in a time warp. The early discs include some vaguely cheesy piano noodling of the cocktail-lounge variety, sound effects -- probably more accurate to say percussion -- that remind me, at least, of wind chimes on a breezy day, and some wild sounds that display technique, which Mr. Shaw possessed in abundance, but less appeal. As the discs progress, things improve greatly. A couple of the last four CDs are standouts. In short, this set is inconsistent in terms of quality yet Shaw fans will probably want it for its high points.
  Props to Woody and Mosaic
Thank you Mosaic for pulling together Woody's Muse work. Woody's fire and sophistication shines through quality compositions and an impressive array of sidemen. The superb liner notes by Woody Shaw III provides insightful perspectives into his father's technical and creative contributions to the music. The remastered sound is much improved from the 32 Jazz reissues from the 1990s. Thank you Mosaic for giving Woody Shaw's music the love and care that it deserves. This fan is very pleased with this purchase.
  Music for the ages
The two periods covered are bookends to Woody Shaw's Columbia period (documented in another Mosaic set many years ago). The first 5 discs are from the 1970's, and transcedent. The final two discs are from the 1980's, and highlight what a wonderful trumpet player Woody Shaw was when performing standards. Having all this music assembled in one place is a joy!
  Another amazing Mosaic set!
Woody Shaw was a rare and unique talent. His music is wonderful and demands repeated listens. I never tire of his playing and the music on this set sounds better than earlier CD versions of some of this music I have heard. So many great players are featured here as well. Steve Turre is in top form!

Woody Shaw: The Complete Muse Sessions (#255)
Woody Shaw: The Complete Muse Sessions (#255)
Limited Edition: 5,000 copies
7 CDs - $119.00

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