FreeWheelin' Music Safari

The Safari Explores the Music of Woody Shaw (Dec 24, 1944 – May 10, 1989)


Christmas Eve was the birthday of one of the best, least famous trumpet players, Woody Shaw.  Shaw was born  December 24, 1944 in Laurinburg, North Carolina. and raised in Newark, New Jersey from the age of one year old.  His parents  were Rosalie Pegues and Woody Shaw, Sr. His father was a member of the African American gospel group known as the ‘Diamond Jubilee Singers’ and both his parents attended the same secondary private school as Dizzy Gillespie: Laurinburg Institute. Shaw’s mother was from the same town as Gillespie: Cheraw, South Carolina.


NPR says that Shaw was :  “the last great trumpet innovator”

Miles Davis, once said : “Now there’s a great trumpet player. He can play different from all of them.”[11]

Trumpeter Dave Douglas stated: “: “It’s not only the brilliant imagination that captivates with Woody Shaw – it’s how natural those fiendishly difficult lines feel… Woody Shaw is now one of the most revered figures for trumpeters today.”[

Wynton Marsalis stated: “Woody added to the vocabulary of the trumpet. His whole approach influenced me tremendously

 Some pretty high praise I’d say. Between 1965 and his death in 1988 Shaw recorded over 25 albums as a leader and another 40 plus albums as a sideman for th likes of Lionel Hampton, Chick Corea, Art Blakey, Benny Golson, Dexter Gordon, Bobby Hutcherson, Hank Mobley, McCoy Tyner, Larry Young and others. Wikipedia: Woody Shaw
Some of the awards her received during his career included:
  • Talent Deserving Wider Recognition, Downbeat International Jazz Critics Poll (1977)
  • Jazz Album of the Year, Downbeat Readers Poll: Rosewood (Columbia 1978)
  • Best Trumpeter, Downbeat Readers Poll (1978)
  • Grammy Nomination – Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Soloist: Rosewood (1979)
  • Grammy Nomination – Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group: Woody Shaw Concert Ensemble, Rosewood (1979)
  • Best Trumpeter, Downbeat Readers Poll (1980)
  • Downbeat Hall of Fame (1989)
I think the first one may just be the most appropriate!

Over the last several days, since I read about Woody’s birthday. I’ve listened to Rosewood and it is a terrific album with some amazing solo work. AllMusic says this about the album:

Woody Shaw’s first album for a major label, Rosewood features the trumpeter with a sextet (either Joe Henderson or Carter Jefferson on tenor, pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs, bassist Clint Houston, and drummer Victor Lewis) on two numbers and with a “concert ensemble” (which reaches as many as 14 pieces) on the other four selections. Shaw is in top form throughout, particularly on “Rosewood,” “Rahsaan’s Run,” and “Theme for Maxine.” Rosewood was a consensus Jazz Album Of The Year in 1977. This modal music ranks with his best work. Read More about Shaw at AllMusic

In addition to the songs listed above I’ve found myself checking the song title of  “The Legend of the Cheops” several times as I’ve listened to the album!

So how did this great trumpet player die at the age of 44. From his obituary:

Woody Shaw, the imaginitive “post-bop” jazz trumpeter and composer whose left arm was severed in February in a mysterious subway accident, died of kidney failure Wednesday after a long illness. He was 44.

Shaw, whose eyesight had been declining for a decade, tumbled down a stairway Feb. 27 onto the tracks at Brooklyn’s Dekalb Avenue subway station where a train struck him, severing his arm. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where his condition deteriorated and he was stricken by pneumonia. Although his pneumonia abated, he continued to suffer kidney pain and died of kidney failure, said his father, Woody Shaw Sr. Full Obituary 

It appears, like many others, may have been done in, by the hard life of a musician,  but he certainly left a fine legacy which can be read about at which was started in 2013 by his son,  Woody Louis Armstrong Shaw.

Here’s Woody’s “Rosewood” from the album Rosewood. So Happy Belated Birthday Woody Shaw, and once again, I have a lot of back catalog to explore!!