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.