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Sax Shed reviews Doug Webb “Swing Shift”…

Tenor Saxophonist Doug Webb recently released Swing Shift on Posi-Tone Records. The recording features Webb on tenor, Stanley Clarke on bass, Gerry Gibbs on drums and three different pianists, Larry Goldings, Joe Bagg and Mahesh Balasoorlya.

According to the liner notes, “Swing Shift represents the third record from one fruitful day of recording, in which I gathered the great Stanley Clarke and Gerry Gibbs together and had three different piano players stop by for a few hours each. My goal for the day was to capture the feeling of musicians playing together, relating, and reacting to each other; just playing music we love. We played almost forty songs that day, and we did no overdubs, edits, or fadeouts. In fact, there were very few second takes. A special thanks to all of the musicians, engineers and guys at Posi-Tone for making these records possible.” – Doug Webb, 2011

The impromptu, recorded jam session entitled Swing Shift captures the energy and creative spirit of Doug Webb’s playing. This is something I first became aware some 30 years ago at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

As a freshman at Berklee, I quickly became aware of Doug Webb’s abilities and a peculiarity he shared with no other at the time. He could often be found roaming the halls from practice room to class to ensemble room – always barefoot. Many of us resided in the dorms above the Mass. Ave building and a quick ride down the elevator would place you ready for your academic day. Whatever Doug’s motivation for being barefoot, he was known as one of the guys who could REALLY PLAY and just happened to walk around without shoes.

Doug may not remember our brief interaction at Berklee, but it is funny how listening to music like this will bring back a flood of memories. Once I subbed for Doug in the Bob Rose’s Jazz/Rock Ensemble and another time he barged into my practice room and absolutely had to know what lick I was working on. I shared the pattern with him and he reciprocated with another – one that has given me good mileage over these past 30 years!

Here on Swing Shift Doug Webb demonstrates his formidable abilities on tenor and soprano saxophone, opening with the classic Soul Eyes. His tenor sound is big with a bit of brightness and edge heard from many post Coltrane tenor players who grew up in the shadow of Michael Brecker, Steve Grossman, Bob Berg and David Liebman. Patagonia Suite features Webb on soprano, exploring the outer harmonic limits and later opting to pick up the tenor. On tenor he immediately begins to on a free improvisation employing multiphonics, overtones and altissimo.

Doug Webb chooses to pick up the soprano again on Frank Foster’s Simone. He weaves in and out the changes beautifully through the first chorus before taking more liberties. His soprano playing is wonderful here.

Quite to my surprise, Doug Webb opts to play alto saxophone – and quite well I may add – on Where or When. The Rogers and Hart classic is performed as a duo between Webb and Joe Bagg on piano. Clearly, Webb has great depth as a jazz musician. His alto sound contains a favorable combination of sweet and brittle at the same time. Prior to this recording I knew Webb as primarily a tenor saxophonist.

Rizone as with Patagonia displays Webb’s ability to burn. He and drummer Gerry Gibbs perform the Webb original at a break neck tempo, never missing a beat.

The closing blues Apodemia is another original by Webb and Clarke. Webb stretches on tenor saxophone; taking it out and then reeling himself back in once again.

Listening to Swing Shift by Doug Webb brings a smile to my face. Not only do I enjoy Webb’s saxophone playing but his choice of songs like Simone and Soul Eyes remind me of those old days coming up in Boston.

Do yourself a favor and check out Doug Webb’s Swing Shift on Posi-Tone Records.

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JazzWrap reviews Doug Webb “Swing Shift”…

The most important things about any group that has been/recorded together for long period of time is consistency and chemistry. In the case of Doug Webb, this consistency and chemistry came of the course of one long day which has given birth to three recordings including his latest, Swing Shift. These recordings represent a number of snapshots over those hours with various piano players. But the one constant is Webb’s amazing direction and the groups ability to hold strong and sound blisteringly beauty on every piece.

Opening this set with brilliance, Webb features Larry Goldings on piano performing on the Mal Waldron classic, “Soul Eyes.” It’s a nice and uptempo version with a lot of a muscle and vitality. Webb’s sound is bold and jumps out and takes hold. The connection the trio of Gibbs, Webb and Clarke have with each pianist throughout these sessions is amazing. Goldings playing, particularly towards the middle of the piece is like an elegant tap dancer.

While the opening minutes of the 22 minute epic, “Patagonia Suite” (written by Webb and Clarke)can be compared to Coltrane as far as performance, the material expands from that theme to Webb’s own vision very quickly. The opening movement flies at a frenzy. Batasooriya delivers a resounding performance as he challenges the trio and they respond with crisp versatility. The second movement sees each member moving through improvised solos with Gibbs expressing himself through crazy timing that makes the piece more adventurous than it already is.

Webb offers a sense of spirituality as the “Patagonia Suite” moves into its middle section, which does feel like late period Coltrane but its extremely effective. The interaction between Clarke and Webb is fantastic. This is probably the most exciting I’ve heard Clarke in years. “Patagonia Suite” later resettles into a kind of hard bop mode as it travels towards its conclusion; including quiet but rich solos from Clarke and Batasooriya.

“Apodemia,” another piece written by Webb and Clarke is a bright conclusion to the session. Joe Bagg sits in on piano. The band plays off Webb’s vibrant yet cool performance. This has a nice live feeling to it. I’m really impressed with Webb’s performances and writing throughoutSwing Shift. “Apodemia,” while based in the hard bop mold has a solid sense of modernism delivered by the musicians. Clarke adds a little bit of the funky groove for which he is known. Webb allows the band to really stretch on this piece. It’s a relaxed, diverse and romantic all at once.

Webb’s wild all-day session from four years ago still bears some excitingly fresh fruit. Let’s hope there’s more in the vault to come. Doug Webb has produced a superb bit of work withSwing Shift. If you’ve never listened to him before, this is definitely a disc worth seeking out.

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Lucid Culture reviews Doug Webb “Swing Shift”…

Doug Webb Slays With His Own Stuff

If you see a lot of jazz, you’re probably used to watching familiar faces run through familiar material and wondering to yourself, what if they were left to their own devices? What if they did their own stuff – would they take it to the next level? Doug Webb’s latest album Swing Shift is one answer to that question.

Back in April of 2009, the saxophonist sequestered himself in a Los Angeles studio for a marathon session with a rotating cast of characters. By any standard, the results were spectacularly successful, netting enough material for two good-naturedly energetic, expertly delivered albums of mostly standards, 2009′s Midnight and 2010′s Renovations…and this one. If edgy postbop jazz is your thing, this is your album: Posi-Tone definitely saved the best for last. Webb has chops that’ll make your eyeballs pop. Remember that old Coltrane line about how “everybody thinks I’m playing glissandos but they’re really arpeggios,” or something like that? Whether playing tenor or alto, Webb is on that level, technique-wise, rising with seemingly effortless ease from liquid crystal swirls to gritty, clenched-teeth squalls in places. But this isn’t a chops album – it’s a hot vibe album on a high-octane tip in the same vein as Freddie Hubbard’s Night of the Cookers.

Rhythmic shifts are key here, even as they gradually get into it with Mal Waldron’s Soul Eyes, done as a matter-of-factly swinging blues ballad. Webb takes it doublespeed in a split second, almost imperceptibly, setting up an incisively scampering Larry Goldings piano solo, then resuming his pace without breaking a sweat – or so it seems. Then they jump into the centerpiece of the album, the practically 23-minute Patagonia Suite, a co-write for Webb and bassist Stanley Clarke (who proves to be the perfect fit for this record, whether turning in tireless overtime walking scales, adding low-pressure buoyancy with judicious, juicy chords and even leading the band through a reggae-tinged interlude toward the end). Playing alto with a high, biting, practically snarling tone, Webb casually makes his way through steady eighth-note clusters built around a simple minor-key riff, to wailing squalls, to a dark, stern, straight-ahead, thoughtfully JD Allen-esque interlude that he ends completely unleashed. The architecture is just as smart as the playing, Webb assigning pianist Mahesh Balasooriya (and, to a lesser extent, Clarke) the tough role of following with long solos that echo the sax’s shift from methodical to completely unhinged. Both players register a bullseye, drummer Gerry Gibbs (who played the entire session) cleverly building suspense with his one deadpan, matter-of-fact solo.

In fact, the piece as a whole seems to be a series of variations on Frank Foster’s gorgeously edgy Simone, which is the track that follows: whether their version served as the prototype, or was intended as a coda, it works magically, with a jaw-dropping, supersonic cadenza by Balasooriya, incessant but almost imperceptible tempo shifts and a relentlessly bracing, modal attack by Webb.

They do Rogers and Hart’s Where or When as a trio with no drums, Joe Bagg playing piano with terse hints of stride: even here, Webb is still wired from track two and in edgy minor mode, which redeems this increasingly moldy oldie many times over. They follow that with a Webb/Gibbs duo, Rizone, swirling clusters versus steadily shuffling rhythm and wind up the album with another bracing Webb/Clarke collaboration, Apodemia, evocative (as much of this album is) of Kenny Garrett’s best 1990s-era work. As they do with Where or When, they take their time pulling it together, Clarke fueling the smoldering blaze with his chords, Bagg’s piano unveiling a rippling midnight ambience while Webb broodingly contemplates his next move, the band swaying expectantly underneath. Other than the first track, the tension never really lets up here. This isn’t late night sleepy jazz and it sure as hell isn’t boudoir jazz but as a shot of adrenaline after a rough day at work, it’s unbeatable. Lisa Simpson would be proud (Webb plays her sax parts on tv).

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CriticalJazz reviews Doug Webb “Swing Shift”…

Doug Webb is one of those hard charging post bop tenor players that allows me to accept the fact the best place for my tenor may well be hanging on the wall of the local TGI Fridays. Moving seamlessly from alto to tenor, Webb is a master technician with artistic chops galore but Swing Shift is a tad different. Doug Webb’s Swing Shift is not the traditional blowing session but instead a more lyrical vibe of some of the classic Blue Note large ensembles back when men were men and Blue Note still understood what swing was. The cool bit of back story here is that for the uninitiated, Doug Webb also happens to be the lyrical voice of Lisa Simpson on The Simpsons.
Webb went old school on us back in 2009 by sequestering himself in a Los Angeles studio for a marathon session with a revolving set of pianists with the results successful enough for Swing Shift to be the third volume of work to be released from this session. Swing Shift is passion personified with an all star cast showcasing their unique ability to shift dynamics on the fly, work without a harmonic net and simply blow the roof off the post bop studio they took refuge in.
Opening with “Soul Eyes” a breezy soulful tune from Mal Waldron there is an almost classic Rudy Van Gelder sound to this recording as a effervescent swing takes hold and an organic pulse has Webb push the tempo without over pushing the swing. The incomparable Larry Goldings plays with finesse and precision with drummer Gerry Gibbs subtle percussive nuances and bassist Stanley Clarke anchor a rock star rhythm section. The epicenter ofSwing Shift would be the close to 23-minute long “Panagonia Suite” which is a jaw dropping showcase for both Webb and Clarke. Webb destroys the alto part with an avant gard approach that simply sets the table for Mahesh Balasooriya on piano and Clarke on bass to follow the lyrical road less traveled in the same vein as Webb. The Rodgers and Hart classic “Where or When” is pulled off as a trio with Joe Bagg playing piano and Clarke on bass. Webb continues his foray into the minor harmonics breathing new life into a somewhat tired classic. While there is more than ample sonic firepower displayed throughout this remarkable release, accessibility is never lost.
Swing Shift is hard post bop jazz at an incredibly high level. The day long session included recording nearly 40 songs with three different piano players dropping by throughout the day to work with Webb and his trio. The sound is every bit as notable as the music with most recordings done on one take and there were no overdubs, edits or fade outs. A warm virtually live in the studio ambiance permeates Swing Shift. Consider this a semi-autobiographical look at a musician born to play. Consider this swing on steroids.
5 Stars!
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Phil Freeman on Doug Webb “Swing Shift”…

Also in 2009, on April 24 to be precise, saxophonist Doug Webb went into Entourage Studios in North Hollywood, California with bassist Stanley Clarke (yes, that one) and drummer Gerry Gibbs. Three different pianists—Joe BaggMahesh Balasooriya and Larry Goldings—stopped by for a few hours each. The trio and its guest pianists recorded nearly 40 songs that day, many of them standards but others written by Webb or Clarke. Eight were released on 2009′s Midnight, eight more on 2010′s Renovations, and six more (one of them the 22-minute “Patagonia Suite”) on Swing Shift, the fiercest and most free of the series to date.

Webb may not be particularly famous, but his saxophone sound is one of the most widely heard on Earth: you see, he’s the “voice” ofLisa Simpson on The Simpsons. All those little solos in the opening credits? Webb. (I’ve thought for years that someone should string all of those together into one long piece—call it the “Lisa Simpson Concerto for Saxophone” or something similar. Now that I know who played them all, the idea seems even more appealing.) The first two volumes in this apparently ongoing series were much more romantic and relaxed than this one; they featured renditions of dusty relics like “Fly Me to the Moon,” “You Go to My Head,” “I Can’t Get Started,” “Satin Doll,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” and the like, all swinging with great power and grace but little fervor. Indeed, at their mellowest moments, these albums would fit comfortably alongside the work of Charlie Haden’s Quartet West. But Swing Shift is a very different animal. It’s got the shortest track of the trilogy, “Rizone,” a 2:40 sax-and-drums workout somewhere between John Coltrane‘s “Countdown” from Giant Steps and Charles Gayle‘s Touchin’ On Trane, but it’s also got the longest by far, the aforementioned “Patagonia Suite,” on which Webb starts out playing soprano, but after giving Clarke and Gibbs a moment or two to express themselves, the latter man heading into almost William Parker-ish string-yanking territory, returns on tenor with some fierce, even discordant blowing that would make even David S. Ware lift his head and take notice. This is no mere post-bop collection of standards; Swing Shift proves that Webb and his bandmates can speak any dialect of the family of languages known collectively as jazz, and do so with fluency and undiminished expressive power. Highly recommended to those who want to witness real adventure, paired with undeniable swing.

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John Barron at The Jazz Word weighs in on Doug Webb “Swing Shift”…

Doug Webb – Swing Shift

2011 Posi-Tone

Los Angeles-based saxophonist Doug Webb delivers a muscular set of high-end jam session jazz on Swing Shift, his third release of material taken from a marathon recording session in April, 2009. Along with bass legend Stanley Clarke and drummer Gerry Gibbs, Webb invites a trio of guest pianists to augment the disc’s six tracks of original and familiar pieces.

The lengthy “Patagonia Suite” finds Webb and company in a Coltrane frame of mind, with extended modal workouts and free-form excursions. The unrelenting and highly responsive rhythm section of Clarke and Gibbs, on full display here, propels Webb’s command of both soprano and tenor. The veteran woodwind man of countless studio sessions displays acute knowledge of the jazz saxophone lineage. “Patagonia Suite” and Frank Foster’s “Simone” also feature jaw-dropping piano solos from Mahesh Balasooriya.

Larry Goldings takes over the piano chair for Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes,” swinging hard and settling into a fiery up-tempo groove with Clarke, whose bass presence is characteristically larger-than-life throughout the recording. A soulful, straight-ahead reading of “Where or When” features the stripped-down duo of Webb and pianist Joe Bagg.