The new album “Hidden Fires” from the Tony Woods Project has been getting some great reviews:

★★★★ “Unique” (Jazzwise)

★★★★ “Woods’ writing is colourful, imaginative and inventive and the way in which he brings his various influences together to create a seamless whole is frequently masterful” (The Jazzmann)

“Understatedly emotional and warmly personal music.” (John Fordham, the Guardian)

“Powerful” (Sandy Brown Jazz)

“Wonderful” (Surrey Hills Radio)

“Inimitable” (Howard Lawes, London Jazz News)


See full reviews here:


Nice review of the Tribute to Eddie Harvey gig @ Royal Academy by Peter Vacher:

“Neat writing, perky themes and clever voicings on four Harvey originals gave these expert players something pertinent to bite on, with front-man Pete Hurt on tenor and Tony Woods on soprano the standouts.”

More here-

“HOME THOUGHTS” from MICHAEL GARRICK’S LYRIC ENSEMBLE has been getting great reviews:

“Simply gorgeous music…this is a little gem” Duncan Heining (Jazzwise Magazine, August 2012)

“A gorgeous valediction for the late pianist” (Jazz UK Magazine Aug/Sep 2012)

“One to watch out for” (Bob Sinfield, Jazz FM)

“Great vocalist… beautifully sung and played by the Michael Garrick Lyric Ensemble” (Claire Martin, Jazz LineUp BBC Radio 3)

Ian Mann, the Jazz Mann- Live review of Birmingham gig:

“I enjoyed Jazzlines free early evening event held in the Foyer of Symphony Hall and featuring the music of the Lyric Ensemble. This was the final creative project of the late Michael Garrick MBE and featured his compositions and words plus settings of the poems of others. The album is reviewed elsewhere on this site.

Following Garrick’s death saxophonist Tony Woods has assumed leadership of the group with Nikki Iles replacing Garrick at the piano. The group is fronted by singer Nette Robinson with bassist Matt Ridley completing the ensemble. An attentive teatime audience enjoyed the quartet’s blend of poetry and chamber jazz in a performance that embraced both the serious and the playful. Lighter moments came with a setting of William Blake’s “Laughing Song” and Garrick originals “Promises” and “Spring Departures”. Settings of Robert Browning’s “Home Thoughts” and Siegried Sassoon’s “Everyone Sang” were more formal and frequently very beautiful. Garrick’s own “Aurian Wood” and Kenny Wheeler’s “Everyone’s Song But My Own” represented two contemporary British jazz classics and “Webster’s Mood” was Garrick’s homage to the great American saxophonist Ben Webster.

The Lyric Ensemble served Garrick’s memory well with a delightful performance that included much fine singing and playing. Nikki Iles was an inspired choice to take over Garrick’s role, Nette Robinson sang and scatted with clarity and precision, her voice catching the moods of the words she was singing. Tony Woods varied his sound by deploying alto and soprano saxophones plus the rarely heard alto clarinet. Ridley held down the bottom end with flexibility and intelligence and was given plenty of solo space alongside Woods and Iles. This was an impressive start to an evening of fine jazz in the Heart of England.”


“For Garrick, jazz was poetry, never prose.  This last, beautifully presented offering from the unusually literate pianist, composer, writer and educator recalls his earlier collaborations with Norma Winstone.  The cool-voiced and clearly enunciating Robinson caresses lyrics from a.o. Shakespeare, Browning and Blake and there are also venture into Asian poetics and recastings of two Garrick classics from the 1960s, Promises and Webster’s Mood.  Garrick is in fine lyrical fettle throughout and Woods supplies elegant saxophone colour and bite to a striking set which includes Jaco Pastorius’ Forgotten Love and Kenny Wheeler’s Everybody’s Song But My Own.”

(Michael Tucker, Jazz Journal, Sept 2012.)

“The late Michael Garrick’s love of poetry is well known and here he’s set both his own verse and that of Shakespeare, Browning and Blake to some simply gorgeous music.  Two of the tunes, “Forgotten Love” and “Everybody’s Song But My Own”, are from the pens of Jaco Pastorius and Kenny Wheeler respectively.  Both fit neatly with Garrick’s own compositions, including a lovely “Shall I Compare Thee?” and a particularly fine “Webster’s Mood” for Rendell-Carr Quintet fans.  Sad then that Home Thoughts should reveal that his gifts as a pianist and writer were so obviously undiminished so shortly before his death last year.  This adds further poignancy to a record already rich in subtle emotions and moods.  The rhythm section of Matt Ridley and Chris Nickolls provides fine support, while saxophonist Tony Woods must surely tire of being described as “underrated”.  He is, shouldn’t be and offers ample evidence here why he is an unusual talent.  Best of all, however, is Nette Robinson who essays these often difficult lyrics with an agile charm.  Beautifully packaged with photographs from Garrick and artwork by artist Sisi Burn and singer Nette Robinson, this is a little gem.”

Duncan Heining (Jazzwise Magazine, August 2012)

“This is a gorgeous valediction for the late pianist. It succeeds in bringing together his love of ellington, art, poetry and the female voice, with vocalist Nette Robinson serving him well in all these respects.”

Peter Vacher (Jazz UK Magazine, Aug/Sep 2012)

and re the launch gig:

“With pianist Nikki Iles in for the absent maestro, pitch-perfect vocalist Nette Robinson was calmness itself as she negotiated the tricky conjunctions of words and music assigned to her by Michael with partner Tony Woods adding lovely sounds from a variety of reeds. The accent here was on quiet lyricism, reflection and evocation, Gabriel Garrick joining in, brilliant on flugelhorn and disarmingly funny about his father. The whole evening turned into an entrancing tribute, the audience clearly relishing their access to this uniquely British composer and jazz activist’s distinctive legacy”

Peter Vacher (Jazz UK Magazine, Aug/ Sep 2012)

“The death of pianist and composer Michael Garrick (born 1933) in November 2011 robbed the British jazz scene of one of its most respected and influential figures. He had been awarded the MBE in 2010, a deserved official recognition of many decades of creative music making. Garrick wrote for combinations ranging from small group to big band and was one of the chief instigators of the “jazz and poetry” movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s. His recorded legacy is vast and includes such classic albums as “Home Stretch Blues” and “Black Marigolds”.

In recent years Garrick had forged a productive creative partnership with vocalist Nette Robinson and the pair’s live appearances were regularly covered for The Jazzmann by guest contributor Trevor Bannister. Garrick has always worked with singers, most famously with that doyenne of British jazz vocalists Norma Winstone who appears on many of his classic recordings.

“Home Thoughts”, recorded in September 2011, represents Garrick’s last ever album and it is perhaps appropriate that for his swan song he returned to the jazz and poetry format that will forever be associated with him. The name he chose for the quintet that appears on this record, The Lyric Ensemble, reflects Garrick’s abiding love of poetry and the importance he placed on the actual words within his musical settings. Joining Garrick at the piano and Robinson on vocals are Robinson’s life partner Tony Woods on reeds plus the young musicians Matt Ridley (bass) and Chris Nickolls (drums). The material includes settings of words by Robert Browning, William Shakespeare and William Blake alongside Garrick’s own lyrics. The majority of the twelve compositions are by Garrick himself but there are also arrangements of pieces by Jaco Pastorius and Kenny Wheeler. The attractive CD package includes paintings by Sisi Burn and Nette Robinson (Robinson is an exhibited artist) together with photographs and illuminative liner notes by Michael Garrick.

The album commences with a setting of the Shakespearian sonnet “Shall I Compare Thee?”, tenderly essayed just by voice and piano with Robinson’s pure vocal complemented by Garrick’s thoughtful and sympathetic piano. The words include several familiar images (“The Darling Buds Of May” etc.) and Garrick’s notes salute Shakespeare’s lines as being “moving, forceful and clear” before going on to pray for the “continuity of finely-wrought language”. However the music is of equal importance, witness Garrick’s beautifully lyrical passage of solo piano mid way through the piece.

“Home Thoughts, from Abroad” offers more familiar lines this time in a setting featuring Woods’ feathery soprano sax plus nimbly supportive bass and drums. Woods captures something of the airy spirit of the nest building birds mentioned in Browning’s bucolic words as he shares the instrumental soloing duties with Garrick.

The 2012 London Jazz festival included a poignant but richly enjoyable tribute to Michael Garrick led by his sons Chris (violin) and Gabriel (trumpet). Among the pieces played was an MJQ style instrumental treatment of Lady of the Aurian Wood” (originally a big band piece) by a quartet including Ridley and vibist Jim Hart. Here the piece appears in another guise with Robinson singing Garrick’s words, a wistful reflection on the beauty but ultimate sadness of Autumn. Garrick’s own demise shortly after the recording gives the words an added poignancy and relevance. Robinson sings beautifully with Woods, Garrick and Ridley sharing the instrumental plaudits.

The playful “Laughing Song” represents the lighter side of William Blake. “We were looking for something light and jokey to balance the heavy stuff and found it in an unexpected source” explains Garrick. The quintet sound as if they’re thoroughly enjoying themselves as Woods soprano squiggles joyfully and Ridley lays down a springy bass groove. Robinson scats playfully and Garrick skips around the keyboard with what sounds like youthful abandon. It’s childish, silly even, but great fun.

“Forgotten Love” is another tune that upends the popular image of its composer. Jaco Pastorius is generally considered to have been something of a ‘wild man’ but “Forgotten Love” reveals something of the master bassist’s sensitive side. Pastorius visited Garrick at his home in Berkhamsted and played this on Michael’s piano. Garrick later added the evocative lyric with its ghost like imagery, movingly sung here by Robinson in a second voice and piano duet.

Trumpeter and composer Kenny Wheeler’s “Everybody’s Song But My Own” has become something of a modern standard and has been frequently covered by a variety of jazz musicians of all generations. The version here includes a life affirming Garrick lyric delivered in a quintet arrangement featuring the splendid saxophone work of Woods, a brilliant Garrick piano solo and a feature for drummer Chris Nickolls.

“Oumara’s Wish” draws on the traditions of Asian poetry (“often a delightful mix of playfulness and sensuality” explains Garrick). This charming voice and piano duet sees Robinson relishing in the delightful imagery of the lyrics. “We loved the idea of the poet hiding in his songs so that he could kiss the lips of his beloved whenever she sang them” says Garrick.

“Shades of the Orange Leaves” is equally beguiling with Woods’ flute and Ridley’s deeply resonant bass playing key roles in the arrangement. Once again the words display that “mix of playfulness and sensuality”.

“Promises” was originally the title track of a 1966 Garrick album but “acquired words in recent years”. Those lyrics focus on the contradictory nature of the human condition but the quintet arrangement is playful and fun and emphasises the bitter-sweet humour of the lyrics. There’s a spirited instrumental dialogue between Garrick and Ridley, some exuberant sax blowing from woods and a neatly energetic drum feature from Nickolls – plus a scat episode from Robinson.

“No Stronger Than A Flower” is a return visit to the Shakespeare oeuvre in a sombre but lovely meditation for voice and piano. Robinson and Garrick sing and play with suitable gravitas.

The atmospheric “November 1918” describes the homecoming of soldiers after the first world war. Garrick describes the lyrics as having sprung from a “vivid dream”. The evocative arrangement features the unusual but mellifluous sound of Woods on bassett horn.

The album closes with “Webster’s Mood”, Garrick’s response to seeing the legendary tenor saxophonist Ben Webster (1909-73) playing in London circa 1965. There’s a strong emphasis on the blues with Woods capturing something of the spirit of Webster alongside Robinson’s soulful, heartfelt vocal, Ridley’s richly resonant bass and Garrick’s beautifully modulated blues styled piano. It’s a beautiful elegy to one of the giants of the music, and in hindsight an elegy to Garrick himself, an equally significant figure in his own way. The album packaging includes Robinson’s evocative image of Webster.

“Home Thoughts” represents a suitable closing statement from Garrick, a well crafted album of great beauty and sensitivity that showed him to be in rude creative health until the end. Obviously Garrick didn’t know that it was going to be his last recorded testament, he merely approached the album with the same level of care and craftsmanship that he invested in all his projects. Nevertheless the return to the “jazz and poetry” format seems to be an appropriate way for him to have signed off.

The success of the album (although it may be a little “precious” for some listeners) has ensured that the Lyric Ensemble will continue to perform with the always excellent Nikki Iles filling Garrick’s role at the piano. A superb pianist and a wonderfully sensitive accompanist who has worked with Tina May and many other vocalists she should prove to be a worthy successor to Michael. The fact that his music will continue to be played and loved is perhaps Michael Garrick’s greatest legacy.”

(Ian Mann, the Jazz Mann)

The album “Seventh Daze” from Kwartet has been getting great reviews:

“Spirited” **** (Jazz Journal)

“This is unpretentiously joyous music-making” (John Fordham, The Guardian)-

“A deeply charming disc” (Robert Shore, Jazzwise Magazine)

Number Two in the JAZZ CDs CHART!

“Kwartet is a new group featuring the combined abilities of two of Britain’s most talented reed players in the shape of Tim Whitehead and Tony Woods. Their album “Seventh Daze” appears on Whitehead’s HomeMade imprint in association with Woods’ own Marquetry Records and the recording also features drummer Milo Fell who has worked previously with both of the co-leaders,  making him a natural choice for this quartet. Electric bass specialist Patrick Bettison is a less obvious candidate but he is excellent throughout, adding considerable rhythmic impetus alongside his virtuoso solo contributions. The programme consists of a number of originals from Whitehead and Woods, one tune from Bettison, a smattering of jazz and bebop standards plus a distinctive Whitehead arrangement of the traditional folk classic “Blackwaterside”.

The contrast between the styles of the co-leaders is a constant source of fascination throughout “Seventh Daze”. Whitehead features on tenor and soprano while Woods’ arsenal consists of alto, tenor and soprano saxes plus alto clarinet. Whitehead’s playing is established more firmly in the jazz tradition with Woods bringing something of the folk/world element that predominates in his own band, the Tony Woods Project. Despite their stylistic differences the two reed men complement each other very well and their dialogue consistently engages the listener throughout the album.

Whitehead’s quirky opening title track opens with sharply pecked asymmetric phrases leading to more regular bebop inspired four bar exchanges between the two horns. Crucially plenty of space is left open for Bettison and Fell to add their own stamp to the music. Bettison features strongly with the first of several excellent solos throughout the album and Fell’s brisk, colourful, neatly idiosyncratic drumming is a constant delight throughout this piece. He sounds as if he’s having a ball.

Woods’ “Dilemma” has something of the folk and world feel that imbues much of his solo work. A lilting, slinky 5/4 groove underpins Woods’ North African/Middle Eastern style soloing, the composer’s soprano subtly underscored by Whitehead’s tenor. The way the two horns dovetail is utterly seductive with Bettison and Fell providing typically colourful but totally sympathetic rhythmic accompaniment.

Bettison’s “Bustling Stomach” is a lively funk tune propelled by the composer’s deeply rhythmic groove and Fell’s crisp, funky drumming. The two horns converse joyously over the top, hooting, honking and fluttering. There’s an unpretentious sense of joie de vivre that’s nigh on irresistible.

There’s a change of mood with Whitehead’s nocturnal ballad “Underlined” which has a real old fashioned after hours feel courtesy of the composer’s warmly seductive, smoky tenor and Woods’ grainy but mellow alto clarinet. Bettison, on bass guitar, is at his most lyrical and the understated Fell adds just the right splashes of colour in the tune’s closing stages.

The same feeling is sustained through the intro of the Rogers and Hart standard “My Romance” which sees the saxophonists trading solos as Bettison’s bass grooves gradually increase the momentum. There are features for Bettison and Fell too- more than “just” a rhythm section the imagination and inventiveness of these two adds greatly to the success of the album as a whole.

The traditional song “Blackwaterside” is one of the most familiar items in the folk canon and has been covered by Anne Briggs, Bert Jansch, Sandy Denny and many others. Personally I love Oysterband’s rousing version of the song on their 2002 album “Rise Above” sung with great power and conviction by lead vocalist John Jones. However I digress. Whitehead’s arrangement takes the instantly recognisable melody as the jumping off point for some inspired improvisation featuring the carousing of the two horns allied to some characteristically flexible and intelligent work from the rhythm section. It’s very different to the Oysters’ version but equally stirring in its own way.
An enjoyably busy romp through Charlie Parker’s bebop classic “Confirmation” keeps the energy levels bubbling with the twin saxes sinuously intertwining and with typically colourful cameos from Bettison and Fell.

There seems to be a tendency for tracks on the record to be scheduled in complementary pairs (the ballads “Underlined and “My Romance” followed by the more extrovert arrangements of “Blackwaterside and “Confirmation”). Thus the next two items by Whitehead are pieces written by the saxophonist for a dance piece choreographed by his daughter, Maisie. “Kristina” opens with a duet between Whitehead and Bettison with the saxophonist blowing long, mournful lines over an electric bass underpinning. There’s a Coltrane-esque middle section by the quartet that mutates into a thrilling saxophone duet full of punchy, staccato phrasing before the rhythm section return for a high energy finale.  By way of contrast “Claire and Kristina” is a tender waltz with the emphasis Woods’ starkly beautiful alto solo.

Woods’ “Rowing Blues” is unexpectedly upbeat, driven by Bettison’s supple, propulsive grooves and Fell’s funkily insistent drumming the piece represents the opportunity for the twin saxophonists to enjoy a right old tear up. This is invigorating stuff which must go down a storm live.

An arrangement of Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” marks a return to more lyrical virtues with both saxophonists and Bettison acquitting themselves particularly well.

Woods’ “Pantagruel” is quirky, playful and whimsical and owes something to the composer’s folk and world leanings. It’s enormous fun with an almost childlike sense of mischief. The album concludes with a brief reprise of the saxophone duet that introduces “Blackwaterside”.

“Seventh Daze” is very enjoyable album that touches a number of stylistic bases and highlights the tremendous rapport between the co-leaders Whitehead and Woods. Bettison and Fell also make invaluable contributions, Fell’s colourful, quirkily imaginative drumming is a constant source of delight. The originals from the members of the group are suitably varied and the arrangements of jazz and folk tunes find something fresh to say about their subjects. Whitehead has long enjoyed adapting pop tunes for performance by jazz ensembles (as on his 1999 album “Personal Standards”) but his successful treatment of “Blackwaterside” suggests a new folk orientated direction for him to explore.

At seventy minutes plus the album is arguably over long but who can blame Whitehead and Woods for wanting to get all their ideas out there when the opportunity for recording arose. The music on this album would constitute the nucleus of a very good and well balanced live performance.” (Ian Mann,
“There’s certainly no lack of invention in this little quartet- or, rather, Kwartet- and it’s not just about the  dynamic frontline of long-time musical-associates ex-Loose Tuber Tim Whitehead and folk-stoked reedsman Tony Woods.  There’s witty, crisply recorded drum work from Milo Fell, while electric bassist Patrick Bettison provides lead lines across the 12 tracks (13 if you count the brief 46 second reprise at the end), including on Whitehead’s  sleepily lyrical “Underlined” and a cover of Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way”; he also contributes a funky composition of his own in the shape of “Bustling Stomach.”  Ultimately, though, it’s the quality of the snaky dance between Woods and Whitehead that justifies the set, which begins in quirky bop mode with the title track before the duo mine a gentler vein on the lovely “Dilemma”.  “Blackwaterside” is a Whitehead arrangement of a traditional tune, “Confirmation” has the leaders locking horns in Bird territory, and – my personal favourite – the playful “Pantagruel” taps a sweetly rootsy vibe.  The result is a deeply charming disc.

Robert Shore (Jazzwise Magazine, August 2012)

“On Kwartet’s “Seventh Daze” (Home Made) the reeds of Tim Whitehead and Tony Woods combine beautifully against the perfect rhythmic shapes provided by Patrick Bettison and Milo Fell. Fine writing too, and Kwartet show great taste in covering Anne Briggs/Bert Jansch’s ‘Blackwaterside’.”

(Jazz UK Magazine Aug/Sep 2012)

“Jazz musicians must sometimes feel that everything that can be said in jazz has already been said. So they are left with the difficult option of finding a completely new path for jazz or looking for other possibilities. One possibility which seems to be increasing in popularity is to form a group with an unusual line-up. This has certainly been the case with recent albums I have reviewed by Charlie Mariano, Jason Stein, Brass Jaw, and Khuljit Bhamra.

Kwartet is a pianoless quartet consisting of two saxophonists, bass and drums. They make the most of the line-up by interweaving the saxophones above the bass and drums. The empathy between the saxophonists is clear right from the opening title-track, where the saxes swap fours sympathetically before a good bass guitar solo. Many tracks display this almost telepathic interchange between Tim Whitehead and Tony Woods, who often pick up one another’s suggestions and even harmonise unexpectedly together.

Most tracks are driven by the resonant bass guitar of Patrick Bettison and the echoic drums of Milo Fell, who both take worthwhile solos. For instance, in My Romance they both contribute interesting interludes. This jazz standard is delivered gracefully, with the alto sax sounding as poised as Paul Desmond. This is one of three standards on the album, the others being Charlie Parker’s Confirmation, which includes almost supernatural interplay between the saxists, and Dave Brubeck’s In Your Own Sweet Way, whose tranquility makes a rewarding contrast to some of the more outspoken tracks.

All the other tunes were written by members of the group. Underlined and Claire and Kristina are pensive ballads but the other compositions are extrovert – mostly invigorating, although the saxes are sometimes tempted to scream and screech. Yet I would stress that, for the most part, Tim Whitehead and Tony Woods work together in almost unbelievable harmony, which makes this album outstanding for most of its 71 minutes. For the most readily appealing tracks, I would choose the three standards (possibly because they are easy to find one’s way around) and Dilemma, a catchy piece which was also on Tony Woods’ album Wind Shadows.”

(Tony Augarde, Music Web International)

In the newly formed Kwartet, saxophonists Tim Whitehead and Tony Woods go for a straight repertoire – Rodgers and Hart’s My Romance, Charlie Parker’s Confirmation and Dave Brubeck’s In Your Own Sweet Way, alongside original folk and contemporary-jazz themes. It’s unpretentiously joyous music-making, often very reminiscent of 1950s contrapuntal jazz featuring two-horn front lines, and the contrast between Woods’ restraint and Whitehead’s rugged vigour keeps the mix simmering. Whitehead’s Kristina, written for his daughter, has a delectable sax/bass unison theme, the steady 5/4 whirl of the folk- dance Dilemma reflects Woods’ deepest affections, My Romance features the two saxes seamlessly interwoven, and the bebop classic Confirmation rattles along with a nimble, knowing relish. It’s old wine in new bottles, but engagingly done.

(John Fordham, the Guardian June 2012)

“The two saxophonists whose close musical rapport forms the foundation for this pungent but occasionally playful album, Tim Whitehead and Tony Woods, are both powerful and highly individual soloists and skilful composers (Woods with a more overt penchant for traditional-folk roots), so this set of often quirky in-band compositions and three standards/jazz classics is characterised throughout by originality and assurance.

Joined by electric bassist Patrick Bettison and the idiosyncratic but always resourceful drummer Milo Fell, the saxophonists sinuously intertwine, robustly joust and generally strike creative sparks off each other throughout a widely varied programme.

Everything from a stirring arrangement of the traditional ‘Blackwaterside’ through a danceable funk piece (Bettison’s ‘Bustling Stomach’) to rousing two-tenor features such as Woods’s ‘Rowing Blues’ keep up the considerable momentum established by the opener, the intriguingly multi-hued and multi-textured title-track, and overall, this is a consistently lively and enjoyable album, at once imbued with the pleasing informality that results from close musical acquaintance and compatibility, and the attention to detail and nuance that comes from the front line’s wide experience.”

(Chris Parker, London Jazz Blog)

“virtuoso saxophonist” (Peter Vacher, the Guardian)

The album “Forlana” from the Avalon Trio has been getting great reviews:

“The pastoral tunes of early 20th century English composers are beautifully reworked by the Avalon Trio…full of open, spacious melody, never losing sight of the originals.”
(Dave Gelly, The Observer)

“Imaginative…engaging trio.”  (John Fordham, the Guardian)

“The album Forlana sounds beautiful.” (Julian Joseph, BBC Radio 3, Jazz Line Up)

“…the players strike a handsome balance between honouring the clean, memorable melodic lines of the originals and using them as the basis for some splendidly restrained improvisatory work.” (Robert Shore, Jazzwise Magazine)

“Woods is a wonderfully articulate player who always brings a lyrical quality to his solos, whether blowing cool or hot” (Peter Bacon, the Jazz Breakfast)

“An impressive piece of chamber jazz that impresses with its arrangements, playing and production values. There’s plenty of improvisation here for jazz fans to get their teeth into.” (Ian Mann, The Jazz Mann)

“A model of taste and restraint.”
(John Eyles, BBC Music Review)

“Passionate….and bouyant.”
(Tony Augarde, Music Web International)

“Technique is flawless, but not showy, and arrangements are thoughtful.”(Don Lodge, The York Press)

“sensitive…exacting and rewarding.”  (Jane Sheridan, The Halifax Courier)

“engaging…played with sensitivity. * * * * *”  (Peter Beavan, The Northeren Echo)

“Very original” (Pete Slavid, UK Jazz Radio)

“Lush…elegiac and moving” (Carew Reynell, Sandy Brown Jazz)

“dynamic…artistic.” (Christos Dukakis,

For full reviews and more info on the Avalon Trio please visit the Marquetry Records web site.

Reviews of the Tony Woods Project:

  • “Definitely jazz for the 21st Century.” (Peter Gamble, Jazz Journal)

This is the third album from the TWP and features eight originals from reedman Woods plus one traditional piece. There is an undoubted air of originality, with the leader a commanding voice on his chosen instruments, including soprano saxophone, clarinet and a Chinese hulusi, which he brings to bear on a number of his attractive and often optimistic sounding themes. Folkish elements run through some of the music but this in no way diverts the quintet from its improvisational path. The group interaction is excellent and given the rhythmic shifts built into the majority of the numbers, the musicians demand the listener’s attention. Even when a funky groove takes over, it’s always creatively developed. Definitely jazz for the 21st Century.

May 2010 Peter Gamble, Jazz Journal

  • “Woods is phenomenal” (BBC Music Magazine)

Sarah Walker writes:
“I’ve been enjoying the latest release by jazz saxophonist Tony Woods, Wind Shadows. Woods is phenomenal-spontaneous but exacting amazing control over his instrument, and as virtuosic as you like without being a show-off. My favourite track is “Air “, one of Woods’s own compositions, which opens with a florid sax solo..”

  • “…an album of vivid moments.”
(John Fordham)
British saxophonist, clarinetist and flautist Tony Woods is a jazz player with upfront folk-music enthusiasms.  This is the lastest offering from a long-running project that has consistently occupied its own niche, somewhere between John Surman’s work, Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House, and the crossovers of the contemporary Scottish scene.
Woods’ yearning and songlike alto clarinet sound establishes an arresting introduction to the set with Driftwood, which also unleashes the album’s first surprise when an increasingly funky folk-dance shifts up a gear with electronic echo-effects, and then starts hinting at Pat Metheny’s rhapsodic song James.  A soprano-sax jig veers into an improvisation like stripped-down Evan Parker, The North Wind Doth Blow has some exquisite moments in which Woods’ sax laments over delicate marimba lines, and Transformation hs its folk-prance undermined by some firece clarinet multiphonics.  It’s an album of vivid moments.
Friday 23rd Oct 2009, John Fordham, The Guardian
  • “a beautifully played and densely atmospheric disc” (Robert Shore, Jazzwise Magazine February 2010.)
There’s a track on Tony Woods’ long-gestated new album that bears the (ironic) alternative title of “Giving jazz a bad name”. Apparently this is what someone called out when the tune, more properly known as “French Sweet”, was debuted at the Greenwich Jazz Festival. It’s hard to know what the audience member took exception to exactly. The length (13-plus minutes)? The folksy influence? If it was the latter, there are far worse offenders on this exotically inflected disc of English pastoralism-the children’s song “The North Wind Doth Blow” , for instance, which begins with Woods on Chinese hulusi (a three-piped flute) before Rob Millett’s marimba lines come to the fore and the leader switches to sax. It might have been nice to hear a little more from guitarist Mike Outram, who brings a welcome blast of electric effervesence to the title track. But whatever your feelings about folk-jazz it’s impossible to dislike such a beautifully played and densely atmospheric disc.
  • “a wonderful recording by one of the most interesting and thoughtful groups on the British jazz scene…beautiful.”
(Kyle Horch)
This is the third recording by the Tony Woods Project, which has been touring on the British jazz scene since 1997.  I have been a fan of the group since hearing their previous CD, Lowlands.  That recording impressed me with the group’s blend of modern jazz and folk music, its unique line-up of instruments, and Tony Woods’ excellent playing on a range of woodwind instruments.  So, I snapped up the opportunity to hear this new recording when offered the chance to review it, and have not been disappointed.  This new recording picks up where the last recording left off, with a new set of tunes penned by Tony Woods, several of which explore maritime imagery of sailing; the tinge of folk music which permeates the set gives the music a subtle sense of place.  The first track, Driftwood, begins with an unhurried melody on the alto clarinet, yes, the alto clarinet, Tony Woods’ playing of which is an absolute revelation: a gorgeous warm tone and lovely intonation.  The second track, Air, begins with an Eric Dolphy-ish free cadneza which leads to an up-tempo tune played with a crisp, compact soprano tone; Rob Millett contributes an intelligent vibraphone solo here as well.  The Chinese hulusi, a shawm-like instrument with a drone element, is selected to open the third track, an arrangement of the children’s song The North Wind Doth Blow, giving it a mournful quality.  For the fourth track, Bitter Sweet, Tony Woods picks up a wood flute in a lovely ballad introduction, before a faster, changing metre head leads to a groove, over which bassist Andy Hamill plays a harmonica solo.  And so it goes, through the rest of the recording, always a shifting sound world as the lead instrument changes from one tune to the next until the final track, Acceptance, a lovely alto feature which also includes a deft solo from guitarist Mike Outram.  The group is absolutely seamless in the way each member can shift role from accompanist to soloist, and back again with the finesse of a classical ensemble.  There is a gentleness to the group’s sound, and Tony Woods’ compositions provide a wonderful variety of colour.  Rob Millett provides consistently inventive voicings and is the glue of the group; when not soloing, he, Mike Outram, Andy Hamill and Milo Fell provide tasteful rhythm backing.  Tony Woods’ woodwind playing is an inspiration throughout, and his brief comments in the booklet set the scene for each track while leaving space for the listener’s imagination.  This is a wonderful recording by one of the most interesting and thoughtful groups on the British jazz scene.  On offer here are magical atmospheres, vivid instrumental playing, a wonderful sense of ensemble improvisation, and a poignant sense of theme running through the tracks; light , shadow, wind, and sea.  Beautiful-highly recommended.
(Autumn 2009 Kyle Horch, Clarinet & Saxophone)
  • “the album proves that jazz and
intelligently combined, can produce powerful and affecting music.”
Described by reedsman/flautist Tony Woods as ‘music of light and
sweet and bitter, the wind and the shadow’, and containing in its notes
references to Eric Dolphy, religious poet George Herbert and traditional
children’s songs, this album comes from what might be termed the
lyrical/spiritual/pastoral section of the jazz spectrum. Woods himself
plays saxophones, clarinet, wood flute and hulusi, Rob Millett vibes,
marimba and gongs, and it is chiefly their interplay and the resultant
textural variety that defines the music of the ‘Project’. Also present,
however, is electric guitarist Mike Outram, and his spiky but eloquent
fluent playing brings a welcome edge of abrasiveness to the
proceedings, a
useful counterpoint to the folkishness of the band sound (Woods began
playing folk music with his father at the age of five and was raised in
Chilworth Old Village, Hampshire). Consequently, there is a muscularity
underlying the gently meditative quality of Wind Shadows that
clearly escaped the attention of the audience member at the Greenwich
Festival (bravely quoted by Woods on the sleeve of this CD) who accused
the band of ‘giving jazz a bad name’. Also important to the band sound
insistently driving bassist Andy Hammill and drummer Milo Fell, so (as
with previous bands operating in this area – Danny Thompson’s
Whatever immediately springs to mind) the album proves that jazz and
intelligently combined, can produce powerful and affecting music.
(July 2009 Chris Parker, Vortex Jazz.)
  • “…altogether this is a deeply satisfying album.”
(Brian Blain)
Another quiet man, saxophonist Tony Woods, is gradually acquring theprofile he deserves.  I’m not a folk-jazz enthusiast but the Tony Woods Project examines this world so beautifully on Wind Shadows (33 Records), that I’m completely disarmed.  It’s that Scottish reel thing that gets everybody at it, but the way in which it morphs into a kind of backbeat propelled by Milo Fell on “Transformation” shows how open-minded Woods is.  There’s elegiac stuff too-witness the opening alto clarinet line on “Driftwood”- and altogether this is a deeply satisfying album.
(August/September 2009 JazzUK Brian Blain)
  • “Wind Shadows is a quiet masterpiece of colourful, eloquent music making with a distinct pictorial quality… abeguiling mix of folk inspired melody and jazz improvisation  (June 2009 Ian Mann, the Jazzmann.)
Saxophonist Tony Woods describes this album as “Music of light and dark, sweet and bitter, the wind and shadow”. It’s a fairly accurate summation, there is a definite pictorial quality to the music sketched here by Woods on reeds plus an all star cast of Mike Outram (guitar), Rob Millett (vibes, marimba, gongs), Andy Hamill (double bass, harmonica) and Milo Fell (drums). This is the third release by the Project following “High Seas” (FMR 1997) and “Lowlands” (Basho 2004) .
“Wind Shadows” is a beguiling mix of folk inspired melody and jazz improvisation played mainly in a pastoral vein which often gives it a very English quality. There are however ethnic elements plus more overtly “jazzy” moments to ensure that this is genuinely multi cultural music of a highly descriptive nature.The opening “Driftwood” is a perfect example of this album’s pictorial qualities. This description of a piece of driftwood being washed from the shore to the sea is perfectly depicted by Woods’ various reeds, Outram’s shadowy guitar and Millett’s shimmering vibes. Leisurely and gently atmospheric it’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t be out of place on an ECM record with Woods cast, perhaps as Louis Sclavis and Outram as John Abercrombie.
“Air” opens with some impressive circular breathing from Woods on soprano manipulating the proverbial “column of air”. The main melody of the piece is appropriately breezy and airy with former orchestral percussionist Millett also prominent in the mix. The vibist produces a typically dancing solo but in a track inspired by Eric Dolphy there is also an excursion into free jazz territory about three quarters of the way through the piece before things are resolved by the return of the main theme. It’s clever enervating stuff.
“The North Wind Doth Blow” is based on the melody of the children’s song but it is given an unusual twist by Woods deploying the haunting sound of the Chinese hulusi on the intro. Millett adds to the exotic atmosphere through the use of gongs and marimba . Taken as a whole this a haunting, beautiful piece of folk/world jazz, the kind of thing Jan Garbarek might be proud of.
The mood is carried over to the intro of the following “Bitter Sweet” which features Woods on wood flute before a more a more orthodox jazz style emerges. Here Woods demonstrates his abilities on the tenor dovetailing with Outram’s guitar on the album’s most full on playing thus far. Contrast is provided by a quieter interlude featuring the return of the wood flute and Hamill’s distinctive contribution on harmonica.“Dilemma” is a pensive ballad that derives it’s title from “the questioning, uncertain character” of the tune. (Woods’ words from the liner note). It’s a pretty tune featuring keening soprano,lyrical vibes and delicate brushwork.
“Transformation” features the gorgeous tones of Woods’ alto clarinet on an attractive melody that has it’s genesis in an improvised motif. Outram’s soaring guitar and Millett’s percussive colourations are also central to the track’s success. An ethnic feel emerges periodically contrasting nicely with a more abstract and exploratory central section. Like most of Woods’ writing there is the sense of a journey being taken and one with some fascinating scenery along the way.

The title “Wind Shadows” is apparently a sailing term, a reference to the “wind shadows” of other vessels. Woods’ lyrically lilting piece of the same name features the leader on soprano and incorporates a beautifully eloquent solo from bassist Hamill plus suitably stratospheric guitar from Outram as the pierce builds in intensity.

At thirteen plus minutes “French Sweet” is the lengthiest piece on the album, a slowly opening flower that contains some fine playing from all five participants. Impressionistic moments combine with tight unison passages including a swirling mid section that acts as a feature for Fell, his playing a dazzling combination of controlled power with a colourist’s eye for detail.
The closing “Acceptance” with Woods on reflective sounding tenor exhibits some of the Zen like calm suggested by the title.

Wind Shadows” is not an album that shouts for your attention but rather gains it through subtle, colourful, eloquent music making. It’s a record that slowly draws you in, each new listen reveals a different nuance or facet in these intelligent, carefully crafted compositions. It’s an excellent team effort with all five musicians making telling contributions. Millett should perhaps be singled out as his percussive contribution does much to establish a unique sound. Not only that he also engineered and mixed the album, co-producing it with Woods.

As for the leader he displays a considerable mastery of several different types of reed as well as demonstrating considerable skill as a writer and arranger. The questing intelligence and sheer variety of his playing sometimes reminded me of Harrison Smith and the cinematic quality of his writing of a more laid back Theo Travis. But “Wind Shadows” is something of a quiet masterpiece in it’s own right.

(June 2009 Ian Mann, the Jazzmann.)

  • “Colourful, evocative music from one of the most distinctive groups on the UK jazz scene”
    Tony Woods’ most recent album “Wind Shadows” was recently reviewed on this site and I have to say that it’s one of my favourite albums of the year thus far. Woods’ compositions mix jazz, folk and world elements to create a music that simultaneously enchants and fascinates. His tunes are eminently melodic and accessible but at the same time are full of complex and clever ideas that help to keep listeners on their toes. This is music with a pronounced pictorial quality- Woods often draws on the elements for his inspiration- (hence the title “Wind Shadows”)- and every piece seems to tell a story. These qualities together with an unusual instrumental line up that teams Woods’ various reeds with vibraphone and guitar help to make his music unique. Although sometimes casually dismissed as “folk jazz” (a criticism I don’t buy into) the Tony Woods Project is one of the most distinctive sounding groups on the UK jazz scene.

Woods brought his five piece Project to Cardiff as part of a Jazz Services tour that had seen him play the previous night at Swansea’s Jazzland venue. At Cardiff he was rewarded with a sizeable, knowledgeable, listening crowd and this made for an excellent gig. Joining Woods were album personnel Mike Outram (guitar) and Milo Fell (drums) with vibraphonist Martin Pine and bassist Dave Mannington replacing Rob Millett and Andy Hamill respectively.

The band drew on material covering their three releases “High Seas” (FMR, 1997), Lowlands (Basho, 2004) and the current “Wind Shadows (33 Records, 2009). Woods obviously views these albums as a body of work and was keen to present something taking in his whole repertoire rather than just concentrating on promoting the most recent album. Thus jazz combined with elements of folk, world music and even rock over two sets of fascinating music exploring the whole gamut of Woods’ work.

The Project began by seguing the title tracks of “Lowlands” and High Seas” into one heady melange. Several tracks on the “Lowlands” album are rooted in traditional British folk music including the sea shanty “Lowlands” itself. Here Woods stated the melody on alto sax as Fell’s shakers, Mannington’s arco bass and Pine’s vibes combined to approximate the sound of the sea.
In High Seas Outram’s guitar took off soaring stratospherically before coalescing with Woods’ alto as the piece built to a climax.

“The North Wind Doth Blow” from “Wind Shadows” is Woods’ adaptation of another folk source, in this instance a children’s song. His treatment is highly unusual, the piece opens with Woods playing the Chinese hulusi flute, the instrument a gift from regular bassist Andy Hamill. It’s an instrument I’ve never seen deployed before and it’s probably worth taking a little time to describe it here.

The hulusi is a free reed pipe made of a gourd (shaped rather like a pear) with three bamboo pipes fixed at the bottom. The central pipe is the main or melody pipe and has seven finger holes, six at the front one at the back. The other two pipes are drone pipes which allow for overtones. The instrument is common throughout South East Asia and there are also African equivalents. In Woods’ hands the instrument sounded beautiful, ethereal and exotic- at times reminiscent of a melodica, at others of small bagpipes. Fell, using soft head sticks, Mannington on arco bass and Pine on shimmering vibes added atmospheric support. Woods subsequently switched to alto before reverting to hulusi at the conclusion of the piece.

“Driftwood”, the opening track on “Wind Shadows” featured Woods on alto clarinet, another rarely seen instrument. This is a shame as it’s a beautiful sounding instrument that combines the warm woodiness of the more common bass clarinet with the flexibility of a saxophone. Woods’ duet with Pine was superb with the reed man demonstrating a real ability to soar on his chosen instrument. Inspired by a short film “Driftwood” is one of Woods’ most cinematic pieces and as the piece grew Outram’s guitar once again took flight.

“The Meeting Place” from “High Seas” is an attempt to illustrate in Woods’ words “maybe a market square where different bands compete with each other, or maybe a big city where different cultures clash and fuse”. In any event it proved to be rich cocktail with an effervescent solo from Pine at the vibes, deploying two mallets rather than the now customary four, but no less dazzling for it. Pine is a theatrical performer also wielding shakers as he played. Eventually he put down the mallets as Woods alto took over entering into a dialogue with Fell’s drums. The effect of this section for sax, drums and percussion was powerful, almost shamanic. Outram eventually joined the proceedings and a series of breakneck unison runs for saxophone and guitar took us into the break.
The band had built up an amazing head of steam on this number and thoroughly deserved a breather.

The second half commenced with Woods deploying yet another instrument in his arsenal, the wood flute. It’s wispy tones introduced “Bitter Sweet” from “Wind Shadows”. As the piece grew in momentum he switched to alto but the instrumental honours were taken here by the excellent Mannington with a lyrical and dexterous bass solo and Fell with a more dynamic drum feature. As the title of the piece suggests “Bitter Sweet” is a piece that embraces several changes of mood and pace. Like so much of Wood’s writing it tells a story and transports the listener.

The title track of “Wind Shadows” is another example of this process. It began with Woods’ feathery soprano shadowed by Pine’s vibes chording. Bassist Mannington then took over with a liquid but resonant solo. The entry of Outram marked a shift in gear, the guitarist’s trademark soaraway solo supported by Fell’s powerful rock based drumming.

Also from “Wind Shadows” “Air” is inspired by the great Eric Dolphy. This began with an astonishing passage of unaccompanied soprano sax from Woods, all that circular breathing made me feel tired just watching it. The main melody when it kicks in is catchy and infectious but the spirit of Dolphy is captured in the free jazz interludes that punctuate the piece. Others to shine here were Loop Collective bassist Mannington with his nimble solo above Fell’s implacable drum groove and vibist Pine with an extrovert solo that saw him deploying both ends of the mallets.

Finally came the magnum opus “Prayer” from the album “Lowlands”. Opening with a beautiful folk jazz melody sketched by Woods on alto the song mutated through powerful alto and guitar solos before finishing serenely with restatement of the theme in an almost hymnal coda. Yet again we had been taken on a musical odyssey but this was to be the last one of the evening. Sadly the band had a more prosaic journey to make-back up the M4 to London.

It had been a superb evening’s music with all five members of the group making distinctive contributions. One thing that surprised me was how “full on” the band had been. On record the music comes across as almost pastoral but live the group, particularly guitarist Outram can really rock out when the occasion demands it. Contrast, dynamics and colour are all part of Tony Woods’ music and this group demonstrated these qualities in abundance. Fans of Jan Garbarek or Andy Sheppard should find plenty to enjoy in Tony Woods’ work- visit for details of albums and live appearances. Sadly this was the penultimate date of the tour but the Tony Woods Project is due to appear at Jagz Club, Ascot on 11th October see

(Ian Mann, The Jazz Mann, Septemeber 2009)

  • “Woods is clearly a master saxophonist but always directs his technique towards expression and emotion and evocation, which is just as we like it.
” – (June 2009. Peter Bacon the Jazz Breakfast.)

The alto clarinet is a tremendous instrument – closer to the saxophone than the usual clarinet but still woodier – and Tony Woods uses it on the opener, Driftwood. A lot of the song titles come from nature and the Woods instrumentalists have all the right sounds to evoke them. In addition to alto clarinet, Woods plays saxophones and wood flutes, including a complex Chinese one called a hulusi, and he is joined by Mike Outram on electric guitar, Rob Millett on vibraphone, marimba and gongs, Andy Hamill on double bass and harmonica, and Milo Fell on drums and percussion.They can be atmospheric, as on Driftwood or they can work up a head of steam, as on the bitter parts of Bitter Sweet (it also has gentler sweet bits – or are the contrasting tastes depicted the other way around, with bitter the quiet flute and harmonica parts and sweet the delirious excitement of the band going for it in controlled but increasing intensity?) Air starts with a virtuoso solo display on soprano saxophone. There is a strong, skirling folk music feel not only in traditional The North Wind Doth Blow but also in Dilemma, and in the title track (Wind Shadows is inspired by shapes that form on the sea during sailboat racing), and the writing in general feeds as much off expressive non-specific “pure” music as it does off jazz. Woods is clearly a master saxophonist but always directs his technique towards expression and emotion and evocation, which is just as we like it.

  •  “And what I like above all about Woods’ music are those moments when a door is suddenly opened, and unexpected fresh air, the outdoors, nature, or even anarchy get invited in.” (Sebastian Scotney)
Read the full review in London Jazz below:
Woods’ consistently draws inspiration from the elements. His first album was High Seas, the second Lowlands. And what I like above all about Woods’ music are those moments when a door is suddenly opened, and unexpected fresh air, the outdoors, nature, or even anarchy get invited in. In the first track, Driftwood, Woods is burbling, arpeggiating on alto clarinet. You can tell that at some point in his life, as an English clarinet player, he has paid his dues to the pastoral tradition of Finzi and Stanford. But from [3:17] onwards, there is a transformation, the rules, the maths, the physics have gone, nature has taken hold. The alto clarinet is suddenly a seagull. Then it’s a foghorn warning the dinghies to get out of the way.
Mike Outram plays the sweetest wailing rock guitar in Britain. It’s a sound of great beauty, and the recording captures it well. In Bitter Sweet, he holds back, serene, allowing Woods to explore the contrasting rougher sound possibilities of the alto sax. But the end of his solo in Transformation he steps right out of the cool, and socks out in-your-face and defiant dissonance, but then returns to sweetness. I can almost picture an “it-wasn’t-me-ref” smile…..
In the second track, Air, Woods is on soprano sax. From nowhere, the band is suddenly pumping out full-on English folk-rock. And the end of the track has Milo Fell on drums and Mike Outram on guitar mischievously choreographing a surprise train-crash.
The album has such a range of instrumental colour, well caught by the recording. Woods himself plays soprano and alto saxes and alto clarinet, sometimes cleverly multiplied by overdubbing. He also has features on Indian wood flute and chinese hulusi (a bagpipe drone effect). On Driftwood the alto sax voice explores deep into tenor territory, and bassist Andy Hamill has a convincing excursion on harmonica. Rob Millett plays vibraphone, and , on The North Wind, marimba.
The feel of the band works together well as a unit , and I was surprised to note that there had been such long gaps between recording sessions.
The first session- the title track Wind Shadows- was in November 2006. The most recent- The North Wind Doth Blow- in March ’09.In fact it’s quite a journey: in one of the gaps, Woods got married.(Sebastian Scotney, London Jazz.)
  • 歌バラード情景を凸凹カラフルに活写する英国流コンセプチュアル編 TONY WOODS PROJECT (トニー・ウッズ) / WIND SHADOWS[33 JAZZ 195]
販売価格: 2,300円 (税込)
■ The original liner album “Last DEITO” was included in the words of Eric Dolphy “music, after it has gone out into the air, can not be captured again,” the authors wrote. The sound can be represented as color and shape, nature and sea and wind and by the theme of improvisation by each player, the image and feeling bitter and sweet, to hear music in the film remains in the heart from an impressive me.
■ 1, our development is the theme of improvisation by Tony Woods, a quiet melody repeated returns to the waves, creating the world mysterious and far-melancholiness. 3 has made the arrangement work is the subject of children’s songs in the United Kingdom. This song is a folk instrument in China, as a wind instrument made of a gourd sound box “FURUSU” play with, to feel attracted to a pure tone with a humorous pathos.
■ city in southern England, Southampton-born Tony Woods is the early flowering of musical talent began to play folk music from the age of the father. College of Music to study jazz at Leeds College of Music is Britain’s largest, contains a piano and sax in excellent results, after graduating with a major studio in London, but over a career as a session musician and have emerged in musicians. Who look to the future of Tony Woods, with his remarkable talent to the arrangement.
The North Wind Blow DUSU Air
Bitter Sweet
French Suites
  • 01/07/2005 John Fordham Jazz UK
Tony Woods must be one of the least-known saxophonists in the UK ever to lead one of the circuit’s most imaginative bands. Woods’ group played London’s Lauderdale House in mid-June, mingling hard-hitting postbopand the folk- music (some of it adapted for the sax from fiddle pieces)Woods probably first got acquainted with through his concertina-playing father. A startling young vibraphonist, Rob Millett…brought the group close to the sound of the 70′s Gary Burtonband in his funkier exchanges with gifted guitarist Mike Outram, bassist Andy Hamill was immaculate, and Milo Fell whipcord-tight. If Woods’ fine Lowlands album suggested reflective world-jazz, this gig was as punchy as they come.
  • 06/02/2004 Yorkshire Post
Saxophonist, flautist and composer Tony Woods has drawn on British folk traditions for this inventive and imaginative new release and the results are lovely. There are moments of genuine beauty throughout the music as Woods forges a highly personal programme that owes nothing to the American jazz tradition.
Instead, there is a pastoral feel to much of the material that is quintessentially British. But for all that, this is music of drive and authority. Woods’ soloing on his own Presence, Penny’s Whistle and Rollo’s Monkey is invigorating, and there is excellent support from guitarist Mike Outram, vibist Rob Millett and the bass-and-drums team of Andy Hamill and Milo Fell. It’s jazz of admirable freshness and originality.
LIVE WIRE LISTINGS – Swanage Jazz Festival 2002.
The Tony Woods Project is a pulling together of quality contemporary musicians who are adept at classy improvisation aimed at your soul. Tony Woods fronts the band on reeds, along with Bob Millett vibes, Mike Outram guitar, Andy Hamill bass and Milo Fell on drums. Our senses were lulled into submission with an old English folk tune played with a very contemporary sound on vibes, with enhanced resonance from the bass. Tony’s flute was very cooling as the audience drifted off to the rhythm and sound world of this band. Wonderful Bulgarian and folk influences came together in The Meeting Place to create a melting pot bubbling with good things and we drifted in a wonderful sea of sound, doing nothing but let the musical colours touch us. To contrast, the Latinised What Is This Thing Called Love? was next, and several of the barefoot audience were aching to dance, myself included, but the hypnotic qualities of this band meant we didn’t want to take our eyes off them for fear of breaking the powerful energies that they were giving to the audience with their music. The self-penned High Seas then tumbled onto our shores. Tony’s mesmerizing and emotional sax reduced me to tears as the music crept under my skin and coiled its way into my soul.
This was tangible and tactile music, a gift passed by hand and mouth from the musicians to the audience that we opened from within. It is to the eternal credit of the Tony Woods Project that a collection of wood, gut, skins and metal can impose itself so successfully on your emotions. Thank you for your freely given gift, boys. Fiona.
JAZZ UK MAGAZINE – Sep/Oct 2001.
If ever a band deserved a higher profile, it has to be the Tony Woods Project. Woods a sax/flute player with a superb alto sound, closed the spring/summer series of gigs at North London’s Lauderdale House, and many regulars thought it one of the best bands the venue had presented. A cool and cerebral approach might have been suggested by the yards of sheet music and tricky time-signatures, but there was nothing reserved about the playing of Stuart Laurence (drums), Dave Whitford (bass), Rob Millett (vibes), and Mike Outram (guitar) and the sheer engaging intelligence of Woods’ compositions. Some of them have a folksy edge, but ‘Old Joe Clarke’, a traditional tune that surfaced on Pat Metheney’s ’80/81′ album turned into one of the most disciplined high energy explosions, with Outram’s guitar really flying. European sensibility and American grooves united. (BRIAN BLAIN.)
With a combination of guitar, bass, drums, vibes and solo saxophone/flute what does one expect? Perhaps Earth, Wind and Fire, or something modelled on one of the Goodman small groups, or maybe Weather Report? What we get is nothing like any of these, but a highly organised, very contrapuntal small group with a soloist who doffs his hat more in the direction of Desmond, Konitz and Hodges, rather than Braxton, Brecker or Shorter. The refreshing sound of jazz-rock fusion minus an assault on the ears via relentlessly pulverising rock rhythms is a good example of the way in which we may hopefully be heading.
Tony Woods and his group, of whom we know little except that they are English, for the CD liner notes are less than informative, is clearly a player/composer with a mind of his own and the ability to put his ideas over with clarity and authority. His own playing contains idiosyncratic portamenti, but to some purpose rather than merely imposed trademarks. There is a plaintive, haunting quality on several tracks, but the most impressive aspects are the ways in which carefully contrived ensemble passages, whether as unison sax and guitar, or block-scored with vibes under-pinning the texture, interweave with the improvisatory sections. A special delight is the use of lyrical marimba playing, and an almost Spanish cum sitar sound produced by the guitarist. The opening title Sister Song employs highly contrapuntal effects from the five players, and Meeting Place is a melting pot of 6/8 rhythms and ethnic quotations. In Ballad Up Ballard Down the mournful sound of the sax is followed by misty vibes in a duo with the bass. Civil Peace is gentle jazz with some beguiling marimba. The simple process of subtracting instruments along the way accomplishes the gradual decrescendo in the extended coda-not so easy in what is already what Mancini would have dubbed ‘a small combo.’ Arranged passages intersperse the solos, and those two overworked words ‘effective’ and ‘interesting’ are nevertheless appropriate here. High Seas features some introspective wailing saxophone, and then develops into a raga-like section. Folk Song is almost entirely a solo for wood flute, with the Andean sound of haunting ethnic memories, rather than any orchestral associations. Relatives starts with a ground bass from marimba driving along with the propulsive rhythms of Glass-inspired minimilism, to be joined by energetic riffs to a final build-up.
An unusual disc, not falling readily into any particular category, but bringing a new soloist to our notice, and certainly unveiling the musical possibilities of a small group using today’s rhythms and style within the constraints of academic formalism.(Gordon Lewin)
JAZZWISE – June 1998.
Saxophonist Tony Woods leads a project which moves in several intriguingly different directions over the course of a strong album, and avoids simply replicating an established American model in favour of musical explorations which often seem very consciously English, and not only through the plangent pastoral flavour which is directly declared in ‘Folk Song’, but informs several other cuts as well, notably the evocative ‘Ballad Up Ballard Down’ and ‘The Half Step’. The instrumentation featuring Mark Johns on guitars and Robert Millett on vibes and marimba rather than a second horn and piano rings the changes on the standard jazz quintet in imaginatively applied fashion, both in the thoughtful arrangements and more freely responsive improvisatory passages. (Kenny Mathieson)
The GUARDIAN GUIDE – May 1998.
There’s a corner of British jazz in which pastoral expressiveness, folk idioms and the like offer a distinct alternative to anything from mainstream America. The Tony Woods Project’s album High Seas undoubtedly puts them at the forefront, vibraphone and guitar setting the style alongside the leader as he switches between saxophones and a wooden flute. A former student at both the Leeds and the Guildhall Schools of Music, Woods has a top soloist award from the Dunkirk Jazz Festival among his achievements and was part of the band Within the Word. (Ronald Atkins)
JAZZ JOURNAL – April 1998.
Folky flavours find frequent favour in Woods’s music, the light textures and dancing rhythms of the opening piece setting the style for most of the record (the scurrying 12-tone Rowing Blues a stark exception). Woods is a former student of Leeds College and The Guildhall, and in 1986 he won the soloist’s prize at the Dunkirk International Jazz Festival. His own playing, lyrical and largely diatonic, is of a piece with the idiom in which he writes, and he is accompanied by a good group, with guitarist Mark Johns a prominent and satisfying soloist whose chromatic and bluesy playing brings a welcome grit to the music. In sum, a session that successfully blends folk and jazz without blunting the edge of the latter. (Mark Gilbert)
JAZZ UK MAGAZINE – March/April 1998.
Finally, two projects by players who have definitely found their own voice… saxophonist Tony Woods also presents an absorbing collection of originals on ‘High Seas’ (FMR CD44), with the highly inventive collaboration of Mark Johns (guitar), Robert Millett (vibes and marimba), bassist Andy Hamill and Gary Wilcox on drums. The whole thing adds up to a light and airy collage of sounds which reflect a range of musical cultures, but which are skilfully combined in Tony Woods’ compositions – there’s something in every track that will hook your attention. Fresh, lively interesting, and well worth checking out. (PETE MARTIN.)
MUSICIAN MAGAZINE – December 1997.
Another album of original music, this time by Tony Woods, plus a trad folk song. This one, although studio recorded, has a very ‘live’ feel to it – the compositions are well understood by the musicians and the confidence shows in their playing. The tasteful use of vibes and marimba (Robert Millett), instead of keyboards, gives this CD a very listenable quality. Tony Woods excels as composer and leader on saxophones and wood flute on the nine tracks, although as the insert suggests, there are times when one is somewhat bemused by all that is going on. This is ‘now’ jazz of excellent quality and I’m sure Tony’s project will be a force to reckon with in the future. (John Critchinson)
AVANT MAGAZINE – Winter 1997: This is definitely one of the label’s sharpest releases for a while. Oh! so thankfully it gets away from that dull theme-solo-theme approach of far too many jazz recordings. This album simply contains some exceptional small group writing by Woods. It is no criticism to say that there is a lightness of touch in the leader’s own playing that finds expression in his writing. That’s lightness as in delicacy not as in lightweight. Several of the songs have at their heart a sense of cultural or stylistic clash. Sisters’ Song and Ballad Up Ballard Down have an Eastern or Middle Eastern modal feel. The Meeting Place opens with an almost folky sound, but shifts later in its development to a free sax and drums workout. On this track and on Rowing Blues Woods also uses rock rhythms effectively and gives the music a different dynamic.The line-up allows plenty of space to the musicians, but also gives the compositions the chance to grow, change and expand. Of the players Johns proves a particularly good foil for the leader and some of their unison playing is quite exceptional. His tone is really beautiful and his solo on Rowing Blues is right on the money. On Folk Song his acoustic playing shows confidence and directness, where a lesser player would slide into whimsy. Millett also shines, essaying some pretty complex lines at speed and contributes lyrical solos on vibes and marimba. The rhythm section of Hamill and Willcox provides a strong and sensitive support to the music, despite the constant changes of key, time and mood. Woods uses his band to good effect and his confidence in the musicians pays off in their really classy playing. It is good to hear jazz that succeeds in being individualistic and draws on a range of ‘non-American’ forms and styles with skill, imagination and elan. That Woods’ album achieves this without sounding like an ECM session shows some class. (DUNCANHEINING)
QUOTES:Tim Whitehead.
“Tony Woods is, above all, a contemporary jazz musician. As a composer, his work is rooted in modern grooves, as a saxophonist and improviser he has that assuredness and command that allows for the music to emerge from spaces and silences, and he has the raw passionate edge and tender lyricism, which allows him to travel where he will in the music. He is a natural alto player, and his atmospheric and loose compositions allow the musicians to flow around the structures in the spirit of improvisation, groove, and vocalisation which is jazz ‘root and branch’. The music has a poise and dignity to it which is rare; I have no doubt his enormous talent will soon be given its due.”
“Tony Woods is a superlative saxophonist with a beautiful sound. He never overplays, and is prepared to wait – nothing is forced, which is why his playing projects the utmost emotion. He is also an excellent composer of themes which are completely conceived and realised melodically, harmonically and rhythmically. His group is very fine, creating music of the heart – never merely of the glands – and full of light and shade and surprises. Whether written or improvised, the music of his group is always ‘saying something’.”(Ian Carr)
South West Jazz.
“. . . wonderful tone colours complement the intriguing yet approachable contemporary tunes. Lyricism and clarity are so often overlooked in jazz. . .”


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