Phil Woods - Rights Of Swing

Phil Woods Rights Of Swing (Candid 1961)

Admirable adherence to a major Amendment of the Jazz Constitution ends the first part of bop alto maestro Phil Woods’s career on an adventurous note.

Phil Woods - Rights Of Swing


Phil Woods (alto saxophone), Benny Bailey (trumpet), Sahib Shihab (baritone saxophone), Curtis Fuller (trombone A1-3, B1), Willie Dennis (trombone B2), Julius Watkins (French horn), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Buddy Catlett (bass), Osie Johnson (drums A1-3, B1), Mickey Roker (drums B2)


on January 26 & February 10, 1961 at Nola Penthouse Studios, NY


as Candid 9016 in 1961

Track listing

Side A:
Prelude And Part I
Part II (Ballad)
Part III (Waltz)
Side B:
Part IV (Scherzo)
Part V (Presto)

Phil Woods, baby. Yeah. Major voice on the alto saxophone. Woods started out as one of many disciples of Charlie Parker. Like the finest of ‘m such as Jackie McLean and Cannonball Adderley, he shook off imitation and developed his own sound and style. His conception was fierce, charged, but melodic and tasteful at the same time. He married Chan Parker, former common-law wife of Charlie Parker, and became stepfather to her daughter Kim. Wonderful twist of fate.

He wasn’t one to burn out or fade away. Withstanding trends and fashions, Woods remained true to the source while carefully building on the tradition, stretching it to the limits of his exceptional skills. One such stretching is Musique de Bois, mid-career masterpiece with Jaki Byard, Richard Davis and Alan Dawson from 1974. The furthest that Woods traveled out there was with his avant-leaning collective of Phil Woods & The European Rhythm Machine, when he lived in Europe for four years, not to mention its Asian counterpart Phil Woods & The Japanese Rhythm Machine in the mid-seventies. Woods was consistently excellent throughout his career, a poll-and prizewinning jazz artist with an enormous output, check out the discography on his website here.

In 1961, Candid released Woods’s most ambitious album to date after his string of bop-oriented releases on Prestige from the mid to late 1950s. Candid was the brainchild of bandleader Archie Bleyer, founder of Cadence Records. Bleyer recruited jazz writer Nat Hentoff as A&R executive. Charles Mingus was its big-name draw. The idea of Hentoff was to give well-known artists opportunities to release stuff that wouldn’t necessarily be welcomed by other labels and limelight artists who deserved to be better-known. This year, a slew of albums from the Candid catalogue has been reissued, including Max Roach’s We Insist!, while other records are slated for release in the future.

One of the latest installments of the reissue program is Rights Of Swing. At the time, Woods was part of the big band of Quincy Jones. In total, he would be featured on eight Quincy Jones albums from 1959 to ’65. (Woods scarcely recorded as a leader in the 1960’s, took all the work that he could get as sideman in various bands and commercial projects) In 1961, the Quincy Jones band was back from Europe and its ill-fated tour as backing of the musical show Free And Easy. The show, based on the music of Harold Arlen, was a financial fiasco and the band had to hustle its way through the continent. A disastrous affair, which Jones blamed on the Algerian crisis in 1960. It was noted by several band members that Jones left out the fact that he had invested a considerable amount of money in the Free And Easy show, greenbacks that disappeared in thin air. In his autobiography, Jones admitted that his efforts to keep the band together left him in a serious state of depression.

It seems that Jones and Woods remained on good terms though. Jones has a lot of good things to say about Woods in the liner notes of Rights Of Swing, functioned as musical adviser and conducted the ensemble, which also included other Free And Easy-cats such as trumpeter Benny Bailey, baritone saxophonist and flautist Sahib Shihab, French horn player Julius Watkins and bassist Buddy Catlett. The thing with liner notes is that, how valuable they may be, once you’ve read them it is hard to get them out of your system and enjoy an open-minded listening experience. That’s why there will always be people spreading the opinion that liner notes are superfluous. Understandable, but, for what it’s worth, I am not one of them. Liner notes have always been part of the serious fun of record collecting. Expertise and information can’t hurt. Back in the day, as old-timers regularly explain, it was all the information you could get. As far as liner notes go, digest them like eggs and sausage but keep using your own ears is my advice.

At any rate, it is explained on the back cover of Rights Of Swing that Woods loves Stravinksy (and the Rite Of Spring, of course, which accounts for the witty title; note that Stravinsky’s title for his ballet work is singular, not plural) and there’s a lot of fanfare about chords and chord progressions, which made me think about the scholarly notes of some MJQ albums by Gunther Schuller. With all due respect, reading those notes was like being struck by nausea from recurring, unsolicited visits of an obnoxious neighbor.

As Woods explains: “I tried for a sense of movement uniting the whole framework although each section was meant to be self-sufficient.”

Woods wasn’t going to stay in the blowing session bag. Brave attempt. It was 1961, okay, new developments across the USA, Coleman had worked his way up from the Left Coast, Coltrane blasted through the stratosphere on the Right Coast. You had guys like Teddy Charles, Bob Brookmeyer and Jimmy Giuffre doing all sorts of interesting things. Just to name a few. Add Phil Woods to the list, whose brave attempt at new jazz is not a masterpiece but an intriguing piece of music, no doubt about it. No love at first sight. No butterflies in your belly. It’s like someone that you had doubts about but turned into a good friend. Regular get-togethers, good talks, bottles of wine.

Continuous ebb and flow, rides with a surfboard on solid gulfs, refreshing cold showers on a hot day, these are the sensations of Rights Of Swing. Woods provides surprising twists and turns, crafty compositions and his preludes, prestos, scherzos segue into one another like honey into a cup of tea.

The up-tempo Part I (Prelude) and Part IV (Presto) are uplifting pieces, the latter sparkling with a classy entrance of Tommy Flanagan after the tune’s various shifts in key, rhythm and colors, which oozes natural swing and says: here I am. That’s the way to do it, on top from note one. Benny Bailey – Candid had released his top-notch Big Brass album a couple of months before Rights Of Swing, featuring Woods, Flanagan, Watkins and Catlett, among others – is a fine trumpeter. He succinctly leads the melody of Part II (Ballad) and is an excellent and jubilant contributor to the album’s most conservative tune Part IV (Scherzo). It seems to be the case though, with so many soloists fighting for a spot in Woods’s scored program, that most participants lack the time to develop continuously spontaneous ideas. That’s the downside to Woods’s anti-blowing session program.

Woods had created an enticing mélange of voicing, making the most of the off-beat combination of alto, trumpet, baritone, trombone (Curtis Fuller) and French horn. Julius Watkins is something else. Making the most of a cumbersome jazz instrument, he’s the velvet and satin touch among his section mates and, when he takes solos, it sounds so sweet and natural, it’s like watching a baby sucking the breast. Mother’s milk and all that jazz. Nice contrast to Woods, who takes the longest solos and is on top of his game and scares off the fire brigade. For all his zest though, he lets his flowing lines breathe, often tagging them with a moan and a cry.

He would moan and cry beautifully to the end of his life in 2015 at the venerable age of 83.

Sahib Shihab - And The Danish Radio Group

Sahib Shihab And The Danish Radio Group (Oktav 1965)

Da-da di-da-da-da, the crosseyed cat sang.

Sahib Shihab - And The Danish Radio Group


Sahib Shihab (baritone saxophone, flute, cowbell), big band featuring a.o: Palle Mikkelborg (trumpet, flugelhorn), Bent Jædig (tenor saxophone, flute), Niels Husum (soprano saxophone, bass clarinet), Bent Nielsen (baritone saxophone, flute, clarinet), Bent Axen (piano), Louis Hjulmand (vibraphone), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass), Alex Riel (drums)


in 1965 at Danmarks Radio


as Oktav 111 in 1965

Track listing

Side A:
Dance Of The Fakowees
Not Yet
Tenth Lament
Side B:
Mai Ding
Harvey’s Tune
No Time For Cries
The Crosseyed Cat

It’s about time to spotlight Sahib Shihab, who creeped in the Flophouse premises as a sideman on Philly Joe Jones’s Drums Around The World, Milt Jackson’s Plenty Plenty Soul, Curtis Fuller/Hampton Hawes’s With French Horns and Howard McGhee’s The Return Of Howard McGhee. Plenty sizzling sidemen jobs. He played on records by Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk and spent a decade in the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band.

Relatively unknown in his homeland probably because of his move to the European continent in 1965, Shihab nonetheless managed to make some slaps of vinyl as a leader in his own right. Jazz Sahib on Savoy in 1957, Sahib’s Jazz Party on Debut in 1963 and Seeds on Vogue Schallplatten in 1970 are, well… Sahib Highlights. Shihab lived in Denmark for ten years. A lot of recognition, a lot of work, a lot of good food and great women. And (almost) no discrimination and hostility. Hampton Hawes agreed but in his poignant autobiography Raise Up Off Me also expresses his doubts: “What are beautiful cats like this doing in European capitals? They should be back blowing at Shelly’s and the Half Note close to the source where the music was changing and evolving – things happening that might not reach Europe for years. If they stayed over here much longer they were in danger of becoming local.”

Sahib Shihab went back to the States in 1973 for three years, where he was born as Edmund Gregory in Savannah, Georgia and turned into one of the early boppers on baritone, alto and soprano saxophones and flute. Among those that comprised the source where the music was changing and evolving, Mr. Gregory was one of the first black artists to convert to Islam faith, an act that served as the most politically outright manifestation of the inherently progressive music that was bebop. Though we should be careful to address it as mere protest.

That was in 1947. Post-war frenzy. Commies the new enemies. Two decades later, with JFK shot through the head, Lyndon Johnson the new B-boy battling the Vietcong, The Beatles breaking through across the pond, Shihab was living in Copenhagen. That was the year of 1965. The year of, yes… another Sahib Highlight. Thé highlight? We’re talking Sahib Shihab And The Danish Radio Group, one American, a big bunch of Danish cats. Hell yeah, can’t get any better.

Tremendously swinging stuff. Without any reservation, a blast that oozes Ellington and Mingus, consisting of eight sassy compositions by Shehab. It kicks off with a solid walking bass and staccato horns, it’s Di-Da and a tenor saxophone says da-da-di-da-da. A vibraphone is added, someone plays a killer trumpet solo, someone quotes St. James Infirmary Blues. First thing one might notice is that this Danish platter sounds crazy good.

Second thing one might notice when we’re waltzing in Dance Of The Fakowees is that Sahib recruited a group of Denmark’s finest: Palle Mikkelborg on trumpet and flugelhorn, Bent Jædig on tenor saxophone and flute, Bent Axen on piano. Not to mention the greatest Danish bass player of all time, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and superb drummer Alex Riel. The clarinet player is a first-class snake charmer. Someone plays killer trombone, a muted three-trumpet team returns to the Fakowees theme after a superb display of soft/loud horn section dynamics. Sophisticated but sleazy. Here’s one of the references to Ellington/Mingus. Did Sahib play with Mingus? Not on wax. He listened. Better said, heard. No doubt.

We have the breakneck speed of Not Yet, built around sparkling and booming drum melodizing. We have the balladry of Tenth Lament, vaguely resembling, ahum… Goodbye Porkpie Hat, showcasing a bold and terribly hot baritone story. Leader Sahib at work. More splendid and husky baritone in No Time For Cries and the polyrhythm party of Mai Ding, which links Africa, Cuba, Dizzy’s big band of the late 1940’s and the blues. Pandemonium.

Vocalized breathy flute plays the leading role of the lithe Harvey’s Tune. Finally, the big band goes modal and finishes off the session with The Crosseyed Cat in good spirits. Nineteen fellows dangling like puppets on the magical string of Sahib Shihab. Lasting a mere 37 minutes, And The Danish Radio Group is as short as they came in the LP market, but nobody is dealt short here. One only wishes contemporary artists in the CD/download era would limit themselves to half hours of coherent programs instead of hour-long expressions of the ego.

This little big band platter’s on fire.

Check out Shihab’s masterpiece on YouTube here.