Bill Mays (piano)
Phil & Bill (Palmetto Records; 2011)
Two legends who don't really need a whole lot of introduction, Phil Woods has worked with almost everyone in jazz/pop including Tony Bennett, Bill Charlap, Hank Jones and even Steely Dan. He has a tone that has always brought to my mind Stan Getz.
Bill Mays has decorated his jubilant keys across a wide array of albums by artist, including his partnership with trumpeter, Marvin Stamm, drummer Matt Wilson, and his recent Trio recordings. But his big hands & soft tone is slightly reminiscent of Harold Mabern.
So when these two legends got together to record you had to know it would be a nice walk to bebop avenue. And its a walk you won't forget.
Listening to Phil & Bill, I get a strong and proud feeling similar to recent legendary duets in the recent years by Hank Jones & Charlie Haden, Hank Jones & Frank Wess and the Frank Morgan duet album from the nineties entitled, You Must Believe In Spring. There are sultry, romantic moments as well as classic hard driving numbers that give you a deeper appreciation for these two legends. In addition, you will scream to yourself, "Why they don't get the recognition they truly deserve?"
"Blues For Lopes" an early Woods number, is infectious. A bouncing rhythmic pace is set by Woods but is equally met by Mays with a few improvised moments adding a little bit of humor to the outing. It's fun challenge between the two and you will enjoy the atmosphere of every note. Soulful and sweet is how you will best describe the feeling after weeping under the soft tones of "Danielle." It moves softly but with an joyful nature circling inside. Lovely melodies from Woods all the way. He stretches notes at just the right time and allows Mays to come in and take things to a soft and delicate closing.
"Hank Jones" is a lovely tribute by Woods to the great pianist who just passed away last year. Woods and Mays' performance is beautiful with touches of Stan Getz and Oscar Peterson. This again rises with "The Best Thing For You Would Be Me". Soft and bubbly but with the intricate stops and twists to make you feel this one has been done in the club setting before and they just keep making it better and better with each version.
Phil & Bill is one of those records that you will automatically fall in love with at the end of the first tune. These are two great musicians still delivering a powerful and romantic impact after decades of service. It's contemporary and it opens a door to the beauty of jazz history. And it deserves to be heard by everyone. Highly Recommended.