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.