Recent Listening: Woods And Mays

Phil Woods, Bill Mays, Phil & Bill (Palmetto).

A couple of years ago, Mays succeeded Bill Charlap as the pianist in Woods’ quintet. He had melded nicely with the alto saxophonist in casual playing encounters over the years. Regular exposure to one another in the working band deepened their empathy, as this collection of nine duets shows. Their understanding goes beyond merely speaking the same musical language—at their level of experience and knowledge, mastery of the idiom is a given. The Woods-Mays connection is wired with subtleties. These are a few of the manifestations:

● Mutual recognition of the blues sensibility that Gershwin embedded in “How Long Has This Been Going On?”

● Continuity of thought as they trade phrases in an actual blues, “Blues for Lopes.”

● Anticipation of harmonic direction in the coda they create for a jaunty ending to “The Best Thing For You.”

● The dynamics of their interaction in Woods’ tribute ballad “Hank Jones.”

Aside from Woods’ and Mays’ mutuality and superb playing throughout, the album has the virtue of containing songs too seldom heard in jazz, among them Al Cohn’s “Danielle,” David Rose’s “Our Waltz” and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “All This and Heaven Too,” which is often quoted by soloists but curiously neglected in their repertoires. This CD achieves the neat trick of combining relaxation and stimulation. When it ends, a listener may wonder why it was so short. It is nearly an hour.

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  1. George Ziskind says

    I noticed that they played the head-in and head-out of I’m All Smiles in 5/4 (except for the bridge which they did in plain old 4/4; the blowing choruses are all in 4/4 too).

    Surprises abound. Bill Mays does the verse to The Best Thing For You Would Be Me. I’ve never heard anyone play it. Irving must be gassed. Me too.

    • John Birchard says

      Seeing the title Phil & Bill reminds me that once upon a time there was an LP featuring a pair of hot young alto players. Its title: Phil and Quill. Thank God for the arrival of stereo separation, because you couldn’t name the players without a scorecard.

      • Doug Ramsey says

        Dick Bank faxed this letter from the current issue of the British magazine Jazz Journal:

        Phil Woods relates the story of an appearance by him with the 1950s group he co-led with Gene Quill, billed as Phil and Quill. The MC at a provincial festival announced them thus: “And now give a big round of applause to that new star on the alto saxophone, Phil Anquill.” The audience must have thought they were seeing double when two saxophonists appeared from the wings.
        Mark Gardner, Faversham.

  2. George Ziskind says

    I just checked some facts (connected with the terrific “Phil and Bill” CD) and came up with this:

    Track 4 is listed as “Do I Love You” by Cole Porter. “Do I Love You” was written by Porter in 1939 for the show “DuBarry Was a Lady.” Furthermore, it positively is NOT the tune on track 4 of this CD.

    Track 4 is, in fact, a song titled “Do I Love You (Because You’re Beautiful)” and was written by Richard Rodgers for a television production of Cinderella in 1965.

    • Bill Mays says

      Thanks, George, for the addition of (“Because You’re Beautiful”) to “Do I Love You.” Good to know the full title. However, on our CD, the tune IS in fact credited to Rodgers, not Porter. By the way, I’m unfamiliar with the Porter tune by the same name and would love to check it out if you’d like to scan and email it to me. Thanks.

    • Doug Ramsey says

      I asked Jill Goodwin, chief operating officer of the Woods organization. She replied:

      Yes, this CD will be available at the COTA Booth. It is one of the items I plan on bringing.

      The festival is September 9-11 in Water Gap, Pennsylvania. This is a link to the website.