Woody Shaw: Age 44 | Cause Of Death: SUBWAY /TRAIN

Woody Herman Shaw II

(Born: Dec 24, 1944 in Laurinburg, NC, Died: May 10, 1989 in New York, NY)

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Shaw, whose eyesight had been declining for a decade, tumbled down a stairway Feb. 27 onto the tracks at Brooklyn’s Dekalb Ave subway station where a train struck him, severing his arm. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where his condition deteriorated and he was stricken by pneumonia. Although his pneumonia abated, he continued to suffer kidney  pain and died of kidney failure, said his father, Woody Shaw Sr.~JEFFREY K. PARKER

Woody Shaw was one of the top trumpeters of the 1970s and   ’80s, a major soloist influenced by Freddie Hubbard but more advanced harmonically who bridged the gap between hard bop and the avant- garde. Unfortunately he never broke through to greater stardom (due partly to “personal problems” and failing  eyesight) and his premature death from injuries incurred after being hit by a train was a major loss. Woody Shaw grew up in Newark, NJ, where his father was a member of the Diamond Jubilee Singers. After starting on bugle, he switched to the trumpet when he was 11. Shaw left town for a tour with Rufus Jones when he was 18 and then joined Willie Bobo at a time when Bobo’s band included Chick Corea. Shaw played and recorded with Eric Dolphy and, after being invited by Dolphy, he travelled to Paris in 1964 just a little too late to join the late saxophonist’s band. After a period in Europe playing with (among others) Bud Powell and Johnny Griffin, Shaw spent periods in the groups of Horace Silver (1965-66), Max Roach (1968-69) and Art Blakey (1973) in addition to making many recordings (some as a sideman for Blue Note) with such players as Jackie McLean, Andrew Hill and McCoy Tyner. Other than playing with Dexter Gordon in 1976, Shaw was primarily a leader from this point on, recording for Columbia (important sessions reissued in a Mosaic box set), Red, Enja, Elektra, Muse and Timeless plus two Blue Note dates co-led with Freddie Hubbard. But overshadowed throughout his career by Hubbard, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and later on Wynton Marsalis, Woody Shaw would never find much fame or fortune. — Scott Yanow, All-Music Guide

A critical discography of Woody Shaw