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The Children's Suite

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Album Review

Phil Woods looked at his children's book collection many decades ago, and was inspired by the writings of A.A. Milne to the point of producing this tribute to Winnie the Pooh, Christopher Robin, and friends with musicians from New York City and the Delaware Water Gap, PA area he calls home. He struggled for decades to obtain the legal rights to musically interpret Milne's verses. Some of the tracks are narrated, many others use a string section and a horn complement, while vocalists Vicki Doney and Bob Dorough sing the lyrics with the innocence and wide-eyed fascination only young kids possess. As it is in theory a suite, the storylines work from beginning to end, effectively telling tales of childhood, adolescence, and fantasy. Vicki Doney's higher pitched, girlish voice is perfect for these stories of growing up, questioning everything and wondering why. Veteran saxophonists Tom Hamilton (tenor and clarinet,) Roger Rosenberg (baritone and bass clarinet) Nelson Hill (alto and flute,) trombonist and co-collaborator Rick Chamberlain, and Woods (alto sax exclusively) add bright colors to the songs, and effusively solo. The longtime rhythm section of Woods with bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin are here, with Eric Doney on piano, all sounding solid as per usual. The big-band jazz shuffle "The Good Little Girl" kicks off the suite, a cute song with Vicki Doney curious about why she can't be just a little mischievous, followed by the stringy ballad "Come Out with Me," where she acts on this come hither attitude. "Sneezles" is one of several whimsical recitations by the British actor and Milne family confidante Peter Dennis, with Eric Doney in duet, sometimes counterpointed and circus-like during "Waiting at the Window," starting with a statement of "The Friend" before moving into the Pooh tale "Us Two" over ten minutes, or saying good night on "In the Dark" before the restless bedtime cautionary tale "The End." Woods is more conductor than performer, but his visceral solos always perk things up, especially for "Buttercup Days," a song of pure nostalgia and reminiscence with a solo as purely blues derived as only the master alto saxophonist can play it. There is a relaxed, reflective mood that dominates the proceedings when the string quartet steps forward, with "Down by the Pond" the most interactive, as they and Vicki Doney play together. Dorough is in his Schoolhouse Rock element for the bluesy "Pinkle Purr," and works alongside Vicki Doney for several numbers, the shuffling "The Morning Walk" most poignant with the swinging big band. A recording for specific taste, and not for every bop fan who idolizes Woods, it is nonetheless a heartfelt project that reminds us of the child that remains inside, no matter your age. Partial proceeds in the selling of this recording will go to a good cause, the Pocono Transitional Housing (P.A.T.H) project. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi


Born: November 2, 1931 in Springfield, MA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the true masters of the bop vocabulary, Phil Woods has had his own sound since the mid-'50s and stuck to his musical guns throughout a remarkably productive career. There has never been a doubt that he is one of the top alto saxophonists alive,...
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The Children's Suite, Phil Woods
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Feb 21, 2009

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