Woody’s Delight again demonstrates that trombonist Steve Turre often composes best in homage mode. Having done tributes for past mentors trombonist J.J. Johnson (One4J) and multi-reedist Rahsaan Roland Kirk (The Spirits Up Above), Turre’s primary focus this time around is trumpeter Woody Shaw, with whom he recorded 14 albums over an eight-year period early in his career.
The opening title track is the most overt nod in Shaw’s direction – blues in G-minor (one of Shaw’s favorite forms of expression) that has a hard-bop pulsation and unison arrangement between Turre and trumpeter Jon Faddis, one that any fan of those late-’70s and early-’80s Shaw discs will appreciate. Faddis sticks around for “Something For Sweets,” named for Basie-band trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison, that’s most memorable for the strong, strolling lines of bassist Buster Williams. There are five featured trumpeters in all on Woody’s Delight and Turre’s New Jersey neighbor, Wallace Roney, is up next, glowing beyond his typical Miles Davis-like melancholy on Turre’s haunting, butterscotch ballad, “In Retrospect,” written with Roney in mind, and with Roney’s electric keyboardist, Araun Ortiz, blending with Turre’s pianist Xavier Davis in a manner that isn’t fulsome but faithful to the fragility of the tune.
After another number with Roney, Turre delves into his multifaceted Latin musical past with a wonderful series of ace sidemen. “Annette’s For Sure,” is a samba written for two horns by trumpeter Claudio Roditi (the lone song Turre didn’t compose), that leads off with Turre’s conch shells and the single-string Brazilian twang of Duduka Da Fonseca’s berimbau. “Adios Mi Amigo” is a mournfully serene homage to Turre’s former cohort in Kirk’s band, pianist Hilton Ruiz, who died under mysterious circumstances inNew Orleansin 2006. Roditi’s rich tone splits the difference between trumpet and flugelhorn, bassist Andy Gonzalez has a beautiful rubato tone, and Turre uses his plunger mute to great effect in conveying a more nuanced depiction of grief. The mood quickly pivots into ebullience on Turre’s fabulous tribute to another bandleader-mentor, Manny Oquendo, on “Manny’s Mambo.” Three alumni of Oquendo’s large group Conjunto Libre – Gonzales, Turre and 83-year-old trumpeter Chocolate Armenteros – team with the resplendent pianist Luis Perdomo and a trio of Latin percussionist for hip-swiveling mambo fanfares that guarantee a good mood for the listener. It’s the must-hear track in the collection.
“3 For Woody” shares a modal reverberation with the classic Coltrane quartet, and both Hendrix and the pianist Davis unlock that simultaneous mix of intensity and suspended animation common to the Coltrane-McCoy Tyner phrasings on those quartet records. Then “Brother Bob” closes this wide-ranging record with the last of Turre’s tributes, to a well-regarded limousine driver favored by jazz musicians around New York City. Once again Buster Williams commands attention on bass and Turre’s shells provide a distinct texture.