Tony Woods Project: Lowlands (2004)
Tony Woods is a British multi-reed player who heads this ensemble. Lowlands is inspired by the folk melodies of Great Britain and the world. With the exception of two traditional songs, a sea chanty and a folk tune, the other seven compositions are from the pen of Woods.
The Tony Woods Project seems most to resemble the Gary Burton Group of some twenty years ago in that the instrumental makeup of the ensemble (rhythm section plus vibes, guitar and sax) is reminiscent of the Burton ECM recordings which featured such players as Pat Metheny, Jim Odgren and perhaps a visiting Jan Garbarek. Woods begins the album with a solo sax reading of the title tune, a traditional British sea chanty, creating the impression that this session will be a reflective series of compositions, which is definitely not the case.
I would estimate that, on approximately 50% of this album, the Project strikes the right combination to approximate the mood of the Burton recordings as typified by "Breakthrough" which features Robert Millet's incisive vibes work. On other tracks, like the twelve minute "Penny's Whistle," Woods begins with what sounds like a Native American flute (we learn that it is a fife) and channels what sounds like a New Age composition. When the ensemble joins in, the tune morphs into what sounds like Indian raga music, and the final segment has a distinct Caribbean flavor with Millet switching to marimba. Other compositions are around the eight minute mark and allow for frequent stretching out by the musicians on solo time, and there seems to be a fair amount of interactivity among the players.
Track Listing: Lowlands, Breakthrough, Presence at Christmas, Penny's Whistle, Prayer, Country Dance, Rollo's Monkey, Old Joe Clark, Chocolat.
Personnel: Tony Woods,saxes,flutes; Mike Outram,electric and acoustic guitars; Rob Millet,vibraphone, marimba, dulcimer; Andy Hamill,bass; Milo Fell,drums,percussion.