November 11, 2004


Two sax greats captivate with contrasts (Richard Scheinin, 11/11/04, San Jose Mercury News)

Geography defines music. Think Delta blues. Think Vienna: Beethoven, Schubert and the like.

Geography screamed its influence Monday in Santa Cruz at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, where the Bud Shank Quartet performed with special guest Phil Woods. Shank and Woods -- ``septuagenarian gladiators,'' Woods joked -- are alto saxophonists who came to prominence in the '50s, amid the heat of bebop. They contrast beautifully because they play so differently. And geography is the key.

Woods is New York: He's a subway train, directional, plowing through chord changes, his rhythm-charged solos crowded with notes, like Charlie Parker. Shank is Southern California: He's a Chevy on the open road, leaving lots of space in his solos, which are full of funny squiggly runs, yelps, and wide registral leaps.

Woods is a passionate technician; Parker was his mentor. Shank is a Parker-loving eccentric with chops, a mainstream cousin of Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman, who also emerged from Southern California's bebop scene in the '50s, when Shank allied himself with the West Coast ``cool'' school. Meanwhile, on the other edge of the continent, Woods was gigging with Monk and Dizzy Gillespie.

Together at Kuumbwa, Shank and Woods didn't clash, because each is capable of pearly lyricism and blues feeling and they played tunes both have loved for decades: Bud Powell's ``Bouncing with Bud,'' Parker's ``Steeplechase,'' Gigi Gryce's ``Minority.''

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 11, 2004 12:45 PM

This post almost but not quite makes up for your cruelty elsewhere.

I am still sending you the bills for my padded-cell hospitalization and the hole I punched into the wall.

Posted by: Eugene S. at November 11, 2004 2:23 PM