Woody Shaw on "The Greene Street Caper" ("On Green Dolphin Street")

According to Woody Shaw's website, Shaw had both perfect pitch and photographic memory. I've heard of a few other musicians who are or were reputed to have been born with both these talents: Stan Getz, who once memorized the entire Stan Kenton book and came to rehearsal with his stand turned backwards; Gary Smulyan, who I've heard has the entire Vanguard Band book memorized; and Miguel Zenón (not 100% sure; I never asked). I haven't transcribed too much Woody Shaw, but I'm always surprised by how relatively simple and logical his complex-sounding lines are: there's something about how he phrases them that makes them especially ear-catching. Here's his solo on "The Greene Street Caper," based on "On Green Dolphin Street" (no surprise there). Check out the solo break, especially:

Take a listen:

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Woody Shaw's official website also posted up an excellent live bootleg of Woody playing over "On Green Dolphin Street":

Interestingly, I've found that many of Woody's lines don't seem to sound as great on tenor as they do on trumpet—it may have to do with phrasing, but I also think it has to do with the range. Some of the more dissonant and harmonically adventurous pentatonic stuff he does seems to sound better on soprano or other higher pitched instruments (alto, too). Has anyone else noticed this, or is it just me?


  1. Woody's phrasing of those hip altered colors has had me perplexed since I first heard him decades ago. I would love to play like him on tenor but as you say, it just doesn't have the same weight. Kenny Garrett has made it work for him but then again, he does play alto so maybe you are on to something with the range but I'm not throwing in the towel yet. I do think it has everything to do with phrasing.


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