Continuity of personnel in jazz combos is rare. But the value of such continuity was amply demonstrated by the Woody Shaw Quintet at the Cellar Door last night. Four of the members have played and recorded together for more than two years and their rapport is dramatic.
Each member is impressive enough as a soloist to be a band leader himself - and someday each will be. Right now, though, they are so attuned to each other that each musical idea sparks four others. Shaw's piercing, arching trumpet lines were immediately echoed and transformed by Carter Jefferson's thick but agile saxophone tone. Onaje Allan Gumbs' jagged, distinctive piano solos were simulatenously reflected by softer, secondary solos by bassist Stafford James and drummer Victor Lewis.
Perhaps the most exciting thing is how much this band grows each time they return to the area. The group has now developed three of the top composers and arrangers in jazz: Shaw, Gumbs and Lewis. They are the Miles Davis Quintet of the '70s.
Continuity and personnel have also well served Bill Holland & Rents Due. The local quintet opened for Shaw, as they will again tonight. They are one of the few acts to make song vocals work in an electronic jazz context.