The new album “Hidden Fires” from the Tony Woods Project has been getting some great reviews:
★★★★ “Unique” (Jazz Journal)
“WONDERFUL” (Tom Gillitt, Surrey Hills Radio)
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.”
“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.”
4 STAR **** REVIEW OF THE LYRIC ENSEMBLE’S HOME THOUGHTS-JAZZ JOURNAL
“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)-http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/jun/21/kwartet-seventh-daze-review
“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, www.thejazzmann.com)
“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)
(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, Stereoworld.gr)
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.”
“a beautifully played and densely atmospheric disc” (Robert Shore, Jazzwise Magazine February 2010.)
“a wonderful recording by one of the most interesting and thoughtful groups on the British jazz scene…beautiful.”
- “the album proves that jazz and folk, intelligently combined, can produce powerful and affecting music.”
“…altogether this is a deeply satisfying album.”
“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.)
“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 http://www.tonywoods.org 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 http://www.jagz.co.uk
(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)
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) 吹き込みを残すキャリア20余年の英国マルチ・リード奏者の、レギュラー・クインテットによる一作。まろやかなリード吹鳴にギターやヴィブラフォンの潤いある端麗音を重ね合わせた、ちょっとメロウなクール・サウンド的演出や、多重録音を使った一人多役の無限輪奏っぽい幻覚イメージ醸成、などといった、音響造形面でのこだわり〜独自の意匠にも中々際立ったものを見せながら、コンテンポラリー系ヨーロピアン・モード・ジャズの様々な典型、その探究成果がみっちり濃密に披露されてゆく力投内容。曲により演奏形式や楽想〜情緒のあり様は色々だが、欧州流のエスニックな吟遊牧歌ロマン指向、っぽい一種のフォーク・バラード的世界観がほぼ変わらぬ作風の基盤=大きな柱となっており、これをECMライクな浮遊型の耽美的スロー・インタープレイで体現してみたり、ボサ・グルーヴ調の軽快リズムでマイルドなポップ・インスト風に料理したり、刺激的ファンク・スタイルを導入していつしか曲想もM-BASEみたくダークな硬質都会派サスペンス風情へシフトして行ったり、更には、無伴奏ソロ・サックスによるアブストラクトな辛口フリー・インプロヴィゼーションがいきなりスリリングに炸裂したりと、変幻自在な流転の道程が形作られるも、根本の作家性=全ての曲がどこか地続きに繋がっているような統一的情景イメージ、にはいささかもブレるところがなく、骨太な大河ストーリーを思わせる力強い展開をエモーショナルに楽しませてくれる。 ■ 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.
01/07/2005 John Fordham Jazz UK
06/02/2004 Yorkshire Post