Word has arrived of the passing of Phil Woods. The great saxophonist wrote earlier this year that "my improv powers are declining along with my breathing,” and he announced that a concert he played a few weeks ago in Pittsburgh would be his last. Alas, he died today at the age of 83.
I remember just where I was when I first heard Swiss Movement, the concert album by Les McCann and Eddie Harris recorded at the 1969 Montreux Jazz Festival. I was with a group of friends, mostly high school classmates, and we were skipping school.
Joe Albany wasn’t the first seeker to find his true voice in jazz, but he was among the more forthright about what the music meant to him. In the 1980 documentary, Joe Albany: A Jazz Life, he puts it in both spiritual and psychological terms.
I remember the exact moment during my junior year in high school when I first heard Muddy Waters, but I've forgotten just when I got my first taste of Muddy's main man, Son House. Muddy's great band with Little Walter and Jimmy Rogers floored me right away.
In 2002, I was given the plum assignment of selecting the material and writing the liner notes for a Sonny Rollins anthology of RCA Victor recordings called Tenor Titan. I was limited to an hour’s worth of music, but even if I’d been granted the full 75-minute capacity of a CD, the task would have been daunting.