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Ken Dryden

Phil Woods' Rant About Bud Shank Firing in 2004

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I was running through old emails tonight when I stumbled across this mass mailing by Phil Woods, dated 9/2/2004:

Hello Jazz lovers, wherever you are! I continue to be a fly on the 
windshield of the jazz industry. (HA!) I presume you know that Bud 
Shank was fired from his post as founder and guiding light of the 
Bud Shank Workshop in Port Townsend, WA. He has been the 'man' there 
for 25 plus years, assembling one of the best teaching ensembles 
ever! But now they want a younger man with young ideas! Outsourcing 
the wrong guy folks! It only takes forever to learn this music thing 
and even longer to come to terms with this jazz thing. And they want 
a younger guy. Any damn fool can play when they are 20, or 30, or 
40, 50, 60. But try cutting the mustard when you are in your late 
70's! Now anyone that can do that has acquired knowledge that no 
younger person can ever hope to learn. 

The jazz existence, or any existence is not about getting somewhere 
it is all about the voyage. No one can ever master life, only 
experience it and contribute something to making the world a better 
place to be an artist. ARTIST is the key word. If you want to be a 
practical musician, great. Get some gigs and have a good life. But 
if you want to be a jazz musician, the requirements are more 
stringent. An awareness of world culture is a good place to start! 
Learn something about food and wine, learn a language, read a book, 
paint a painting, see an O'Neill play, stare at a sunset. Write a 
Rondo for heaven's sake - be somebody. And no matter how long you do 
it you will barely touch the surface of this passion called life, 
the jazz life! You have to be a warrior - Bud Shank is a warrior! A 
tough one who has survived. What he has to teach is incalculable to 
measure. And they want a younger guy. How about Norah Jones to teach 
jazz singing? Yeah! Right! 

Bud and I have been doing many gigs together, Toronto festival, 
North Sea and others. We broached Concord records to try and secure 
a one shot record deal for Yoshi's in November. They said that 
instrumental music doesn't sell anymore! Imagine! A company founded 
on instrumental music, great music, decides that it doesn't sell 
anymore. I am mad as hell and will continue to rant and rave about 
these things until my last breath. 

Culture in America is going to hell in a hand basket. (I love that 
saw - don't know what it means but love it still.) Keep the song 
alive. Until next time stay well. And thank you for being a part of 
my thing! 

Phil Woods
 

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Well, that's a rant.

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I never did research who replaced Bud Shank, I can't imagine whoever they chose was an improvement. Sadly, I missed my one opportunity to see Bud perform. He was leading a group with Bill Mays at IAJE in Long Beach, but my wife was with me and it was around dinner time, so I missed it. I know better than to delay food when she's hungry.

But at least I got a phone interview with Bud Shank.

 

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https://jazztimes.com/archives/john-clayton-succeeds-bud-shank-at-centrum/

John Clayton was hardly a kid then...or unqualified...

https://www.peninsuladailynews.com/news/ex-centrum-jazz-port-townsend-artistic-director-shank-dies-at-82/

Shank said he wasn’t upset that Centrum decided to make a change, but he’s angered by the way the change was handled.

“It’s not what they did, but how,” Shank said during a telephone interview with the Peninsula Daily News from Tucson.

“They sent me a letter saying my services were terminated. It’s not the best way to do things like that.”

Now that's fair. Shank was 78 at the time. Replacement, sure, but with dignity, please. Like he said, not the best way to do something like that 

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Phil kept it real to the very end. I love the crack about Norah Jones!

Too bad he mellowed out so much when he wrote his autobiography, but he was still playing to eat in his 80s, carrying around an oxygen tank!

He never took a steady teaching gig, Broadway show, or any type of non-jazz gig after getting sick of studio work on the East Coast, and he never became one of the walking dead of the West Coast studio scene, except when people would want him to play on their albums.

Thank God we have music critics like Ken that could hear the truth, and still recognize the greatness of this great artist.

Windbag Phil Schaap barely knew who he was, and embarrassed himself by only having one of Phil's albums for Phil's Memorial broadcast on KCR, that he played something like five times over and over! Luckily, Oliver Nelson, Quincy Jones, Thelonious Monk Dizzy Gillespie, Budd Johnson, Johnny Griffin, and many other great Black musicians featured him on their records, so Schaap played those all day..

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Posted (edited)

JSngry: John Clayton is a master and was in 2007. Still, it was a shitty the way the festival chose to dismiss Bud Shank as being too old.

 

12 minutes ago, sgcim said:

Phil kept it real to the very end. I love the crack about Norah Jones!

Too bad he mellowed out so much when he wrote his autobiography, but he was still playing to eat in his 80s, carrying around an oxygen tank!

He never took a steady teaching gig, Broadway show, or any type of non-jazz gig after getting sick of studio work on the East Coast, and he never became one of the walking dead of the West Coast studio scene, except when people would want him to play on their albums.

Thank God we have music critics like Ken that could hear the truth, and still recognize the greatness of this great artist.

Windbag Phil Schaap barely knew who he was, and embarrassed himself by only having one of Phil's albums for Phil's Memorial broadcast on KCR, that he played something like five times over and over! Luckily, Oliver Nelson, Quincy Jones, Thelonious Monk Dizzy Gillespie, Budd Johnson, Johnny Griffin, and many other great Black musicians featured him on their records, so Schaap played those all day..

I can't say Norah Jones ever had any appeal for me, though she was a lot better when she appeared with Marian McPartland on Piano Jazz. Part of the issue for me is the originals Jones sang just weren't very interesting. I know, aimed at a younger audience...

I know Phil Woods has a lot of detractors on this board, but I've enjoyed his work for decades and even got to see him perform live a few times. Oddly enough, the only time I saw him with his quintet, Bill Goodwin was MIA, replaced by none other than Pete Sims! Bill told me years later when I was introduced to him at the Deer Head Inn that he had a better paying gig that night!

sgcim: Thanks for your kind words. I'm not sure what the "truth" is. Listening to jazz is more like being a wine connoisseur, some vintages match with one's pallette, others don't. But occasionally one can find a vineyard that produces consistent high quality over the years. That was Phil Woods for me, in my view.

 

Edited by Ken Dryden

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54 minutes ago, Ken Dryden said:

I never did research who replaced Bud Shank, I can't imagine whoever they chose was an improvement. Sadly, I missed my one opportunity to see Bud perform. He was leading a group with Bill Mays at IAJE in Long Beach, but my wife was with me and it was around dinner time, so I missed it. I know better than to delay food when she's hungry.

But at least I got a phone interview with Bud Shank.

 

And are still married.

31 minutes ago, Ken Dryden said:

I can't say Norah Jones ever had any appeal for me, though she was a lot better when she appeared with Marian McPartland on Piano Jazz. Part of the issue for me is the originals Jones sang just weren't very interesting. I know, aimed at a younger audience...

I also have little interest in her music (it's not offensive to me, just, sort of, there, without making any impact) but I am eternally grateful to her because I believe the 40,000,000 combined sales of 'Come Away With Me' and 'Feels Like Home' probably funded a lot of classic BN reissues.  Do we even dream of seeing things like those CD reissues of the 10" albums without the Norah Jones sales money in the BN coffers?

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I know that Phil Woods has a lot of detractors on this board, and I do not share their opinions.

I am a bit surprised that Bud Shank is, for the most part, ignored here?  Bud was very much a part of the West Coast Jazz scene for a number of years and also was quite active in the studio and movie music realm.

But as he got a bit older he said no more of that sort of thing. He put away his flute and became a very very hard swinging bop oriented alto player.

I was fortunate to see Shank live a number of times and he was never less that damn good.

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I did see Bud Shank once late in his life, at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago. It was an excellent set and I recall he was also an entertaining host.

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On 5/19/2022 at 6:35 PM, sgcim said:

Phil kept it real to the very end. I love the crack about Norah Jones!

I’d rather listen to Norah Jones than Phil Woods

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10 hours ago, Peter Friedman said:

I know that Phil Woods has a lot of detractors on this board, and I do not share their opinions.

+1

never saw either him or Shank, sadly.

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Define "detractor". 

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26 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Define "detractor". 

This is a John Deere D tractor.

img.axd?id=4213104727&wid=&rwl=false&p=&

Remember you are talking to a farm boy.

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12 minutes ago, Chuck Nessa said:

This is a John Deere D tractor.

img.axd?id=4213104727&wid=&rwl=false&p=&

Remember you are talking to a farm boy.

Funny!

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4 minutes ago, Ken Dryden said:

Funny!

But true, and sometimes I am guilty.

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9 hours ago, JSngry said:

Define "detractor". 

See the post by Guy Berger above.

What I find so peculiar is Phil Woods plays beautifully, and is on  so many  excellent recordings.

Benny Carter -" Further Definitions" being just one example.

 

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I like Phil Woods pretty much straight through until he came back to America. Something(s) changed then, and I found myself being annoyed by how he was playing. But just that stuff, not the earlier stuff.

The difference is that he went from drunkenly yelling FUCK YOU KING OF SWING to writing ripe emails about sunsets and O'Neil plays and wine making you a more authentic candidate to be a jazz musician. Quite silly stuff, and totally lacing the trenchant grasp of the succinct reality of FUCK YOU KIND OF SWING. His playing became equally ripe. He was just being true to himself, I suppose.

So if that makes me a "detractor", even though I still find a great deal of his work enjoyable, so be it.

It's the Age Of Absolutism anyway, so why not this too?

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A formalism seemed to enter his playing when he returned to the USA.  The stuff he made in Europe in the late 60's and early 70's is adventurous and marvelous, and that's the work by him I pull off the shelves most often.  Have most of what came before that and a smattering of what came after.

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1 hour ago, JSngry said:

It's the Age Of Absolutism anyway, so why not this too?

Don't you mean it's the Age of Relativism?  

Or am I missing your irony? 

 

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Maybe, yeah.

Absolutism is the coming rage, don't be left behind.

Two choices: Absolute Fan or Detractor.

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8 hours ago, felser said:

A formalism seemed to enter his playing when he returned to the USA.  The stuff he made in Europe in the late 60's and early 70's is adventurous and marvelous, and that's the work by him I pull off the shelves most often.  Have most of what came before that and a smattering of what came after.

I like this characterization of him. "Formalism" does seem to fit much of the work he made on the return. I used to enjoy it more when I was younger than I do now. I think he started to repeat himself a bit too much, but damn did he have pretty tone.

 

 

 

gregmo

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My liking for Woods, at one point intense, ceases about 1959-60. This Woods solo exemplifies what I think of as his latter-day penchant for be-bop pole dancing. 
 

Compare that snort-honk-chortle performance with the relaxed lucid elegance of Woods' solo here from 1959:
 

And the earlier you go with Phil, the better it. tends to get. Witness this from 1954:
 

The way his lines hang together here -- in latter-days they're more or less just gestures. 

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Phil Woods played with the great Kenyon Hopkins, including on the soundtrack of "The Hustler," as well as other stuff.  That's enough for me.

 

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11 hours ago, JSngry said:

I like Phil Woods pretty much straight through until he came back to America. Something(s) changed then, and I found myself being annoyed by how he was playing. But just that stuff, not the earlier stuff.

The difference is that he went from drunkenly yelling FUCK YOU KING OF SWING to writing ripe emails about sunsets and O'Neil plays and wine making you a more authentic candidate to be a jazz musician. Quite silly stuff, and totally lacing the trenchant grasp of the succinct reality of FUCK YOU KIND OF SWING. His playing became equally ripe. He was just being true to himself, I suppose.

So if that makes me a "detractor", even though I still find a great deal of his work enjoyable, so be it.

It's the Age Of Absolutism anyway, so why not this too?

Sunsets and O'Neill plays were better than what a tenor player told me he was like before that. He said he used to see PW picking fights in bars like his crazy buddy Gene Quill did, and that's what left Quill a vegetable for the last decade(s?) of his life. Woods made up a story about Quill being mugged in AC, but the truth was a lot uglier than that, but you're not going to hear it from me- publicly or privately..

As William Gaddis said, 'an artist is just the ***** mess he drags around behind his work', and PW probably should have stopped playing when he had to drag around an O2 tank behind him, but that was his choice. Whatever the case, you're not going to hear a lot of his 'bebop pole dancing' or 'formalism' anymore, which was exemplified at his memorial concert in PA. The player they chose to represent Woods was a great technician, but the only 'feeling' I got was when Houston Person and Bill Mays were on the stand. YMMV.

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I can tolerate unevolved behavior, but I'm done excusing it under the guide of "artist". That's one of the cheapest and most degrading copouts of them all 

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