Woods is the greatest living alto player of his generation; born in 1931, he's played with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Benny Carter, and the great Charlie Parker himself. I didn't get to go to anything during the week and hear all the stories Woods had to offer, but Halfling did and was duly impressed. I'm sure it was as thrilling as listening to Benny Golson's reminiscences at the One O'Clock's Fall Concert last semester. The guy's been everywhere and done it all.
WIth the faculty, Woods played "Alone Together," "Lover Man" and "I'll Remember April." The first selection was a special treat because it became a friendly "alto battle" between Woods and Jim Riggs; I wish I had a recording of that for posterity. In the second half, he joined the One O'Clock for a round of his own compositions and arrangements, including "All Bird's Children," "Goodbye Mr. Evans" (I'm pretty sure about this; it wasn't announced, but it was listed in the program and sounded like an appropriate title for the ballad they played) and "The Rev and I" (from his CD with Johnny Griffin), plus an encore of "How's Your Mama?", which Woods billed as "the chart with the most bebop licks ever known to man."
Though Woods hasn't been in great health lately (and said he felt so bad when he arrived in Denton that he needed the services of a top local doctor to keep from going home "in a pine box"), it really wasn't evident save for his usage of a chair while playing, the occasional labored breathing and a slight Maynardesque wheeze in his voice. His horn came to life as always, mixing stunning technique with a bright, vibrant sound. I had seen him perform before when I was in undergrad school, but it had been in a combo setting, so it was really great to hear him with a big band, since many of my favorite Phil Woods recordings (which I realy need to get on CD now) contain a larger group.
There also was a big sale on One O'Clock CD's in the lobby, and I took advantage of that, scoring Lab 83 (newly remastered on CD as of last semester), Lab 88 and the "Fifty Years of Jazz" boxed set for a mere fifty bucks. I always have said that I could easily drop a C-note at that table on any given occasion, so last night was halfway there.
Once again, they've outdone themselves with an amazing guest artist in the Gomez series. It's very cool how this all got started: Glenn Gomez, an alumnus of the UNT business program, was a big fan of the lab bands when he was in school, so when he made it big in the business world, he started the endowment which pays to bring in a stellar artist (or artists, in the case of the Brecker Brothers) for this extended residency. The students get a lot out of it, and alums like myself get to come back for an awesome concert each year. I think I'll try to make this a field trip for my evening combo every year, because it's well worth the time and the trip.