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25 Sep 2020

Last studio recording of jazz trumpeter Woody Shaw released

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September 25, 2020 Category: Entertainment Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO: Jazz trumpeter Woody Shaw performs at the Festival International de Jazz de Montrèal, 1986. (Photo: Mark Miller,)

By Russell Contreras


RIO RANCHO, N.M. — A forgotten studio recording of the late jazz trumpeter Woody Shaw has been released as part of an effort to preserve jazz history.

“49th Parallel,” a 1987 recording led by Canadian bassist Neil Swainson that features Shaw and tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, was made available this month by Vancouver, Canada-based Cellar Music Group’s imprint Reel to Real and New York distributor la reserve records.

The album has been out-of-print for 25 years and is now available on digital platforms.

Swainson said it was an honor to see his project, recorded in Toronto, make it into the hands of jazz fans after the recordings languished for years. He said his friend Shaw, who had a public struggle with heroin addiction, had left a rehab center in California and came to Toronto for the recording.

The album has been out-of-print for 25 years and is now available on digital platforms.

“He looked healthy. He looked great and he was ready to play,” Swainson said.

Shaw was nearly blind from retinitis pigmentosa during the recording and played by ear and memory. “He couldn’t read nor write at the time,” Swainson, 64, said. “He has a great recall, though.”

The seven-song album took only two days to record, Swainson said.

After the recording, Henderson saw a big career resurgence stemming from a series of Grammy-winning albums for the Verve label in the early 1990s. He died in 2001.

Shaw died two years after “49th Parallel” was recorded. He was 44.

Born in Laurinburg, North Carolina, in 1944, and raised in Newark, New Jersey, Shaw was one of jazz music’s most influential trumpeters thanks to his technical and harmonic conventions. He played with the Horace Silver Quintet and worked frequently with drummer Art Blakey before launching into his own solo career.

Shaw joined the “49th Parallel” project late in his career but Swainson said he was still at the height of his game. “It was a pretty exciting session,” Swainson said. “I’m glad people get to hear it again.”

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