February 19, 2016

Woody Shaw - Blackstone Legacy (1971)


Real jazz heads will know this classic. Woody Shaw had already made a name for himself in the 60s by playing as an incredible sideman on some of post-bop's finest records, which includes some slept on Booker Ervin albums and the essential Unity by Larry Young. Contemporary had a lot of confidence in the trumpeter to let him release a double album for his debut, especially considering how they were the keystone label for west coast jazz (Shaw and most of the sidemen on this album are from the Northeast). While I think it's cool that he had the opportunity to do the double disc right from the get-go, I don't think the added length does much for the album experience since the music is not quite as focused as other seminal fusion records Red Clay, Bitches Brew, or Mwandishi. That being said, the album has a really awesome sound, expertly recorded for the type of post-bop/fusion shit they're doing. Shaw is backed by excellent wind players Bennie Maupin and Gary Bartz, both of whom shared roles on some of Miles Davis' most respected electric works, and how can you go wrong with the elite rhythm duo of 1969/1970, Ron Carter and Lenny White? I'm just a sucker for this kind of late 60s-type post-bop that features an electric bass and a handful of electric piano passages while the rest of the band remains acoustic. Woody Shaw really capitalizes on the exceptional lineup and production he is given, but doesn't let the lengthy compositions spiral into bullshitland and he doesn't get overly maximalist or overly funky like so many jazz albums from this era did (in my opinion). The double-length is not necessary, but if you're really in the mood for jazz in that late-60s, early 70s vein, then you might be feeling it.