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Stepping Stones (Live at The Village Vanguard, NY August 1978)

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Album Review

In 1978, just coming off what most Woody Shaw fanatics consider his masterpiece, 1977's Rosewood, Shaw planned on recording another studio album with a similar sound. However, after a disappointing session, Shaw thought better of his initial choice and the band regrouped for a two-night stint at New York's fabled Village Vanguard. The results were nothing short of magic as the band sounds technically and creatively inspired. Interestingly, Shaw is playing cornet here and loses nothing of his rounded, clarion bell tones. Also, given the superb production, Stepping Stones bests some other live Shaw recordings, sounding as good as a studio effort. Joining Shaw is his regular group of the time, including tenor saxophonist Carter Jefferson, pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs, bassist Clint Houston, and drummer Victor Lewis. One would be hard-pressed to find a better hardcore, post-jazz ensemble in the late '70s. To that end, the music here is soulful, cerebral, harmonically complex jazz that is the epitome of post-bop. Shaw was underappreciated while alive and still more often than not is overshadowed by the more well-known Blue Note icon trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. While Shaw was no doubt heavily influenced by Hubbard — who was five years his senior — Shaw nonetheless refined and pushed Hubbard's athletic and harmonically complex style. If Hubbard was the innovator, Shaw pushed those innovations as far as they could go. Few have come close to approaching his artistry and cerebral architecture and none have gone past it. Stepping Stones: Live at the Village Vanguard captures that artistry in motion.


Born: December 24, 1944 in Laurinburg, NC

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

One of the most gifted and innovative jazz musicians of his generation, trumpeter Woody Shaw navigated the rapidly fluctuating jazz scene of the '70s and '80s to create a lasting body of work that extends his influence well beyond his tragic death at age 44. Born in Laurinburg, NC, on December 24, 1944, Shaw grew up in Newark, NJ. Interestingly, Shaw's father, Woody Shaw, Sr., sang in the gospel group the Diamond Jubilee Singers in the '30s and attended high school in Laurinburg with trumpeter Dizzy...
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