Woody Herman Shaw

24 Dec 1944
10 May 1989
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Woody Herman Shaw, Jr. (December 24, 1944 – May 10, 1989) was an American trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer and band leader, described by NPR Music as “the last great trumpet innovator”.

Shaw is regarded as one of the great jazz band leaders and innovators of his generation.Born with a photographic memory and perfect pitch, he was considered to have been generations ahead of his time.

In 1963, after many local professional jobs, Shaw worked for Willie Bobo (with Chick Corea and Joe Farrell) and performed and recorded as a sideman with Eric Dolphy, with whom he made his recorded debut, Iron Man. Dolphy, who had moved to Paris around this time, unexpectedly died in June 1964. Shaw was nonetheless invited to Paris to join Dolphy’s collaborator, Nathan Davis, and the two found steady work all over Europe. While living in Paris, they frequented the club Le Chat Qui Peche, and Shaw crossed paths with musicians such as Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, Johnny Griffin, Dexter Gordon, Art Taylor, other lesser known musicians such as John Bodwin, and notable French musicians like Jean-Louis Chautemps, Rene Urtreger, Jacques Thollot and Jef Gilson.

Throughout the 1980s, Shaw continued performing and recording as a leader with sidemen such as pianists Onaje Allan Gumbs, Mulgrew Miller, and Larry Willis, bassist David Williams, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, and trombonist Steve Turre, recording a number of more “traditional” but highly lyrical albums (Solid, Setting Standards, In My Own Sweet Way) consisting predominantly of standards and tunes from the hard bop repertoire. During this time he also worked on projects with saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Dexter Gordon, as well as fellow trumpeter Freddie Hubbard on three albums (Time Speaks, Double Take, and The Eternal Triangle), the latter two later reissued on Blue Note as The Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw Sessions.

By the late 1980s Shaw was suffering from an incurable degenerative eye disease and was losing his eyesight. Details of the accident are unclear, but on February 27, 1989, Shaw was struck by a subway car in Brooklyn, NY, which severed his left arm. Shaw suffered complications in the hospital and died of kidney failure on May 10, 1989. He was 44 years old.

He was survived by his mother, two brothers, a sister, and his son, Woody Louis Armstrong Shaw III.


  • Talent Deserving Wider Recognition, Downbeat International Jazz Critics Poll (1977)
  • Jazz Album of the Year, Downbeat Readers Poll: Rosewood (Columbia 1978)
  • Best Trumpeter, Downbeat Readers Poll (1978)
  • Grammy Nomination – Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Soloist: Rosewood (1979)
  • Grammy Nomination – Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group: Woody Shaw Concert Ensemble, Rosewood (1979)
  • Best Trumpeter, Downbeat Readers Poll (1980)
  • Downbeat Hall of Fame (1989)

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