Woody Shaw Day

December 24, 1944 – May 10, 1989

A tribute to the short-lived but brilliant trumpeter

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Trumpeter Woody Herman Shaw Jr. was born on December 24, 1944 in Laurinburg, North Carolina.

Shaw grew up in Newark, New Jersey, began playing trumpet when he was ten, and worked early on with local r&b bands.

While a teenager, he played with drummer Rufus Jones, Willie Bobo (a unit that included Chick Corea and Joe Farrell), Larry Young, Tyrone Washington and Eric Dolphy, recording with the latter in 1963.

The trumpeter traveled to Europe to join Dolphy’s band in 1964 but, by the time he arrived, the altoist had unexpectedly passed away.

Shaw stayed in Europe for a year, working with Kenny Clarke, Bud Powell, Johnny Griffin and Nathan Davis.

Back in the U.S., he was a member of the Horace Silver Quintet (1965-66) and had associations with Chick Corea, Jackie McLean, McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill and Max Roach (1968-69), co-leading a quintet with Joe Henderson, working with Gil Evans, and performing as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers during 1971-73.

Considered the top up-and-coming trumpeter, Woody Shaw could play anything from hard bop to free jazz and had a tone similar to Freddie Hubbard’s but with a harmonically advanced style all his own.

Shaw recorded many recording sessions as a leader for the Contemporary, Muse and Columbia labels, co-led a group with Louis Hayes, and worked with Dexter Gordon (1976) but mostly led his own bands including a quintet with trombonist Steve Turre.

His life was tragically short (he only made it to 44) and he never prospered but Woody Shaw was one of the all-time great jazz trumpeters.

Here is Woody Shaw in 1985 playing “Appointment In Ghana” with quite an all-star group.


Woody Shaw, trumpet
Jackie McLean, alto
McCoy Tyner, piano
Cecil McBee, bass
Jack DeJohnette, drums

-Scott Yanow


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