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Album Review

Brian Woodruff Sextet: A Centering Peace

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Brian Woodruff Sextet: A Centering Peace
The title of this release by drummer Brian Woodruff suggests a set of meditative, spiritually-focused jazz by his long-standing sextet. While that may be the underlying theme of the disc but only a couple of tracks have that actual sound. The others go off in several different directions.

The album is dedicated to Woodruff's spiritual advisor, Monsignor Edward Straub, and the title track was written to celebrate his 75th birthday and his 50th Anniversary in the priesthood. It is a stately, hushed hymn sung beautifully by Elisabeth Lohninger that features glowing harmonies from the horn players and delicate solos by bassist Matt Clohesy and saxophonist Lisa Parrott. The opening track, "The Welcome Song," has a similar solemn radiance with Lohninger's voice rising in greeting over the rapturous babble of the horns.

The rest of the CD is a bit more secular with several tracks mixing together jazz and rock rhythms. The fast-moving "War Paint" has the horn players, Parrott, trumpeter Michael Rodriguez and trombonist Alan Ferber, surging together over Woodruff's strong rock beat and guitarist Pete McCann adding gritty rhythms before taking off into a spiraling solo. Ferber and Rodriguez also shine here with their own raucous statements. McCann's stinging electric sound also leads the cooler mid-tempo feel of "Undertow" as the horns push against him and Woodruff stutter-steps through a bumpy rhythm pattern. "Freeway Doctor East" opens with a sinister prog rock rhythmic creep fleshed out by the horn section that leads to careening alto from Parrott. This is one of the pieces in the set that benefits from the unique texture and spring of McCann's guitar rhythms.

On the more overtly jazz side, "Pirouette En Dedans" is an elegant slow waltz with smooth harmonies kicked off by Rodriguez's graceful trumpet that also includes elastic guitar twirling, lyrical bass work, and willowy soprano playing from Parrott. McCann's laidback chords set the tone for the relaxed groove of "Every Detail Minding" where, as elsewhere, the horns are arranged with a soulful crispness reminiscent of Oliver Nelson. "What Happened" is a bubbly fizz of mid-tempo bop and "King Size Blues" is just what it says, a slow blues where the horns sway lazily, the rhythm section glides and Elisabeth Lohninger returns to sing and scat sensual blues vocals over McCann's swampy guitar.

Brian Woodruff has managed the knack of making a small group sound bigger than it is. His composing and arranging draws from jazz, rock and blues to create varied forms of tightly constructed music that are enhanced by high quality soloing. His album has a sense of calm and focus that comes through whether it deals with matters of the spirit or the heart.

Track Listing

The Welcome Song; What Happened; A Centering Peace; War Paint; Pirouette En Dedans; Every Detail Minding; Undertow; Freeway Doctor East; King Size Blues.

Personnel

Brian Woodruff: drums; Michael Rodriguez: trumpet; Lisa Parrott: saxophone; Alan Ferber: trombone; Pete McCann: guitar; Matt Clohesy: bass; Elisabeth Lohninger: voice / vocals.

Additional Instrumentation

Lisa Parrott: alto and soprano saxophone; Elisabeth Lohninger (1,3,9).

Album information

Title: A Centering Peace | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: QJOG


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