An integral part of the fecund and fascinating Pacific Northwest jazz scene, percussionist Evan Woodle is a charter member of several of the region's most innovative bands: Heatwarmer, Chemical Clock , and Operation ID to name a few. Each of these groups plays a sort of hybrid music that's difficult to describe without using hyphens and multiple catchphrases. Chemical Clock mixes high energy jazz- rock fusion with electronica and contemporary classical music. Operation ID has a rawer sound, coming off a bit like a contemporary instrumental take on the thornier aspects of 70s progressive rockers such as Henry Cow and Gentle Giant. Heatwarmer combines jazz and indie-rock sensibilities in the context of punchy, refined compositions that refer to the more appealing aspects of contemporaries such as Jaga Jazzist. In these bands, Woodle consistently underplays a bit, preferring to let the music breathe. The fact that Woodle's a technically accomplished player with world-class chops shines through nevertheless.
Woodle's solo debut, Nth, is completely different. And yet it represents a logical progression from his work with various jazz, fusion, and indie-rock ensembles. First and foremost, it is a solo percussion piece. It is also not a chops display, at least not in the ways one would expect. Masterful timekeeping is essential to the execution of Nth, and Woodle's approach is resolutely minimalist: spare and unsentimental almost to a fault. Opening with the scrape of sticks against a cymbal, Woodle abruptly shifts his focus to the toms. Starting out with a simple, almost Native American-sounding rhythm, Woodle adds layers and variations in real time. The piece ebbs and flows in terms of sound density and timbre as it develops. Woodle craftily uses volume swells and rhythmic modulations to build and release tension. For a solo drum set effort, it's a quick 21 minutes and 19 seconds.
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