Phil Woods: Musique du Bois
Here we find Phil Woods at the height of his mastery, playing as joyfully, as creatively, as confident and unfettered as I’ve ever heard him. But, full disclosure, my special affection for this album is also personal: My teacher, my friend, the
legendary Alan Dawson, is the drummer on the album, and Alan pronounced this his favorite among all the albums on which he was recorded.
Musique du Bois (it’s a French pun on Phil’s name—you got that, right?) was originally recorded at RCA Studio-NYC in January of 1974. Since its first release, the album has been re-re-leased a number of times—on the Muse label, on Joel Dorn’s 32 Jazz label, and most recently (June, 2014) on the Savoy Jazz label. And it turns out, Alan was not the only one with a special fondness for the album: Phil liked it too. “This album,” he said, ”was my re-entry into the American scene after five years in Europe. I think it holds up well.” Later, in a phone conversation, Phil declared Musique du Bois “a spiritually pivotal recording in my career.”
Alan Dawson is predictably rock solid on the recording, propelling the quartet with enthusiasm, flawless technique and his characteristically great taste. In fact, he’s part of an all-star rhythm section here. Playing piano is the eclectic, always surprising Jaki Byard, who can be heard sampling the entire history of jazz in a single chorus. Richard Davis is the bassist, considered at the time by many musicians “the world’s greatest bass player.” (No pressure.)
The album’s playlist speaks to Woods’s breadth of interest, drawing from the Great American Songbook, the Brazilian repertoire, and the music of Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter and Michel Legrand, as well as including a couple of Phil Woods originals.
Musique du Bois belongs in the collection of every Phil Woods fan. Actually, it belongs in the collection of every jazz fan.