Phil Woods can usually be counted on to record consistently explosive bop-oriented sets with his regular quintet but Astor & Elis is quite different. The altoist dedicates the performance to the singer Elis Regina, the influential modern tango composer Astor Piazzolla and indirectly to Dizzy Gillespie. Joined by a sextet that includes the talented cellist Eric Friedlander, pianist Bill Charlap and Phil Markowitz on synthesizer, Woods alternates between playing alto on Brazilian-flavored material and utilizing his clarinet for Piazzolla's music. The emphasis is generally on lyrical and heartfelt ballad statements with occasional heated passages; Dizzy's "Con Alma" is the only jazz standard on the set. This attractive music favorably shows off Woods' versatility. ~ Scott Yanow
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