Elemental Music Continues Landmark Series of Previously Unreleased Historic Recordings
Dexter Gordon Quartet's Espace Cardin 1977 and
Woody Shaw Quartet's Live in Bremen 1983
Both Available on CD and Vinyl
Elemental Music is pleased to announce the release of two recently discovered, previously unreleased live recordings: Dexter Gordon Quartet, Espace Cardin 1977 and Woody Shaw Quartet, Live in Bremen 1983. Presented in exceptional sound quality, these deluxe-CD editions include a 12-page booklet with an essay by famed jazz producer and Elemental project coordinator Michael Cuscuna, as well as contributions from Gordon’s widow and biographer, Maxine Gordon, and from Shaw’s son and namesake, Woody Shaw III.
In 1977 Dexter Gordon returned home to the U.S. after more than a decade living in Europe and launched perhaps the most productive period of his long and varied musical career. “He had peaks and valleys to his playing career, but boy in the mid-‘70s he was at a peak. It was unbelievable,” Cuscuna remembers. “I used to hear him night after night, on and off over a couple of years, and he never had a bad night. It was always just extraordinary.”
Not forsaking Europe entirely, Gordon returned for gigs like the inspired set captured here at the Espace Pierre Cardin (Théâtre de la Ville) in Paris in September 25, 1977. Sharing the stage with him that night are the well-known rhythm section of French bassist Pierre Michelot and American drummer Kenny Clarke. What makes this performance unique is that it is the only known recording of Gordon playing with one of the stalwarts of bebop piano, Al Haig. A constant presence on 52nd street during the embryonic days of bebop in the late 1940s, Haig’s career had gone fallow by the 1960s. At the time of this performance, he was experiencing a much-deserved rediscovery.
In a set that both celebrates and is grounded in jazz standards from “Body and Soul” to “’Round Midnight,” Gordon’s tenor saxophone with its rich, unmistakable tone dominates from the opening notes of his own composition, “Sticky Wicket,” which he laces with playful quotes including “Pop Goes the Weasel.” This tour de force continues with Gordon’s own fresh and inventive take on “Body and Soul,” one that owes a debt to John Coltrane’s earlier re-imaging of this most played of all modern jazz standards.
After a dashing whirl through Gordon’s own “Antabus,” this set concludes with a swinging, full-blooded rendition of Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo” in which the ever-mischievous Gordon adds another quote, this time from “Here Comes the Bride.” A quieter reading of Thelonious Monk’s immortal “’Round Midnight” by just the trio minus Gordon closes an impressive evening.
To further complement this series, Gordon’s legacy is also being illuminated by Gordon’s widow and former manager, jazz historian and archivist Maxine Gordon, with the completion of his official biography entitled Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon - to be published by University of California Press in November 2018. Maxine has preserved Gordon’s legacy and worked to advocate for and document the work of numerous musicians and organizations since Gordon’s passing in 1990.
Woody Shaw Quartet’s Live in Bremen 1983 was recorded live at Post Aula, in Bremen Germany on January 18, 1983. It’s a rare and satisfying snapshot of trumpeter Shaw’s second great quintet, formed in 1980 with pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Stafford James, and drummer Tony Reedus. Like all Elemental releases, this set was produced by Cuscuna, who was a close friend of the late trumpeter during the last 15 years of his life.
All of the Shaw releases in this series were curated and assembled by Shaw’s son, Woody Shaw III, Associate Producer of these Shaw projects. A musician and digital producer with degrees in the arts and business from Columbia University and Harvard, Shaw III has spent the past 15 years preserving his father’s legacy. In fact, Cuscuna and Shaw III have co-produced several reissues of Shaw’s classic recordings together, including the 7-CD set for Cuscuna’s Mosaic Records label entitled Woody Shaw: The Complete Muse Sessions (2013). Shaw III also wrote liner notes for this Elemental series.
Woody Shaw III is currently producing a documentary film on the late trumpeter entitled Woody Shaw: Beyond All Limits. The film which is in production, documents the artistic, intellectual, and philosophical discoveries of Shaw through his music, serving as an intergenerational memoir of a rich musical legacy passed down from father to son. Visit http://woodyshaw.com for more info.
“Woody was an incredibly unique player, who broke the trumpet mold because his style was forged on a respect for Lee Morgan, Booker Little and to some extent Freddie Hubbard but also on saxophone players,” Cuscuna says, “He was an exceptional soloist and also a great intellect. He’s influenced a lot of people who came after him.”
Opening with the “You and the Night and the Music,” a standard recorded by everyone from Sinatra to Bill Evans, Shaw charges into a brilliant solo that turns from long and lyrical lines to rapid fire bursts while Miller shows the influence of McCoy Tyner on his playing. Introduced by Shaw as something “fiery and uptempo,” his fast-paced “Rahsaan’s Run” composed as a tribute to Rahsaan Roland Kirk who had died in 1977, appeared on Shaw’s breakthrough recording, Rosewood. The Miller composition, “Eastern Joy Dance” follows, and here again the lyricism that was such a striking feature of Shaw’s playing comes to the forefront.
First appearing on Shaw’s third Columbia Records album Woody III (which was dedicated to Shaw’s father, Woody Shaw, Sr. and his newborn son at the time, Woody Louis Armstrong Shaw III) — the tune “Organ Grinder” was composed in tribute to famed Newark organist and fellow Arts High School alum, Larry Young, who was a close friend and musical mentor to Shaw. Written as part of the soundtrack to the silent film, Seventh Heaven, Lew Pollak and Erno Rapee’s “Diane” here receives a deeply sensitive and emotional reading with Miller, Stafford and Shaw all embroidering their solos with uncommon thoughtfulness and inventiveness. Shaw closed the set with a sprightly, rhythmic version of Walter Davis Jr.’s “400 Years Ago Tomorrow,” which was chosen by Shaw to celebrate the Afro-Caribbean roots of his music and of jazz as a whole. The show’s encore is a swift and sweet version of one of Shaw’s most memorable melodies, “Sweet Love of Mine,” which was first recorded on Jackie McLean’s Demon’s Dance album for Blue Note Records in 1967, and later on Shaw’s Master of the Art album for Bruce Lundvall’s Elektra/Musician label in 1982.
“In the United States, all the engineers from the ‘50s like Rudy Van Gelder, Frank Laico, Fred Plaut were all trained in mixing as you recorded,” Cuscuna concludes. “All the European guys, especially in France and Germany, were the same way. They knew how to record something in two-track and capture it beautifully, and that’s reflected in the sound of all the Elemental releases.”
Best of all, both Dexter Gordon Quartet, Espace Pierre Cardin 1977 and Woody Shaw Quartet, Live in Bremen 1983 are presented in remarkably clear and dynamic sound quality.
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