A Rifftides reader, composer Michael Robinson, responded to the Monday recommendation of the Jaki Byard Project’s Inch by Inch (see the July 24 post) with a reflection on a Byard performance in a classic Phil Woods album. Mr. Robinson wrote:
One of the greatest jazz albums of all time is Musique du bois by Phil Woods, due in no small part to the appearance of Jaki Byard on piano, in addition to Alan Dawson on drums and Richard Davis on bass. Byard’s intrinsic contribution pertains both to his soloing and accompanying. Check out his performance on this phenomenal rendering of “Willow Weep For Me”:
I was privileged to be in the studio for the recording of Musique du bois, invited by producer Don Schlitten to write notes for the album. The notes were comprehensive, but when 32 Records reissued the music on a CD in 1997, the notes were gutted. Among the many sections left on the cutting room floor was the one that described the making of “Willow Weep For Me.” Therefore, as a public service in memory of a great day in RCA’s Studio B in Manhattan, here is that part of the story.
Woods’ head arrangement of “Willow Weep For Me” begins with the rhythm section playing the introductory pattern used by Miles Davis for “All Blues.” The plan is to continue the figure through the alto solo, but Woods finds it too monotonous. Take one is cut short. There are superior solos on take two from Woods, Byard and Davis, but the leader is interested in supplemental harmonic ideas and goes to the piano to suggest some chords. The third take opens faster, with Davis adding vibrato and Dawson slapping the brushes on his snare drum just enough to impart a happy dance feeling. Woods responds with a sunny solo that is in sharp contrast to the rather brooding statement of the previous take. He introduces a phrase from “Drum Boogie,” chromaticizing it outrageously. Davis solos with an abandon that causes a sharp collective intake of breath in the control room. Byard has a brilliant solo full of Tatum fragments, and the piano sweeps under Woods as he re-enters for a final chorus packed with modulations, piping high notes and gut-rumbling low tones.
“Okay,” Woods tells the control room, “we’ll bring in a brass section to put a chord on the end.”
“Perhaps you’d prefer avacado seeds,” suggests an eavesdropper.
“Yes, with hot sauce,” Dawson grins, and he goes into a monologue full of such gustatory Slim Gaillardisms as mosquito knees, hippopotamus lips and reety pooties.
“Slim who?” some of you may be asking. Well, continuing in the spirit of public service, tomorrow’s Rifftides post will bring you up to date or—more accurately—back to date on Slim Gaillard.
As for Musique du bois, the 32 Records CD with truncated liner notes is still available. So too, it turns out, are copies of the LP with the full notes. Go here for information.