Curtis Woodbury – Curtis Woodbury – Jazz Hang Records JHR101W, 50:26 ****:
(Curtis Woodbury – violin, tenor saxophone; Brian Woodbury – trombone; Justin Nielsen – piano; Matt Larson – bass; Jay Lawrence – drums)
Like many jazz artists, Curtis Woodbury was trained in classical music. And like many others, his training was in violin. An ensuing transition to jazz instruction included a directional shift, adding tenor saxophone to his skills. This symbiotic approach led to assumption of the simultaneous positions of lead tenor chair in the Utah All-State Jazz Band, and concertmaster in the All-State Orchestra. Woodbury felt that artistic knowledge of the saxophone, including articulation, tempo signatures and style adaptability, would coalesce with the technical violin discipline. Consequently, his ability to augment the jazz potential of his violin could be explored.
This self-titled debut on Jazz Hang Records is a discerning project that examines the contemporary role of violin in modern jazz. Eight tracks of assorted styles are presented with vitality in a basic quartet (violin/tenor saxophone, piano, bass, drums), with occasional trombone supplement. Opening with a swing arrangement, “The Eternal Triangle” establishes a cohesive format. Rollicking violin runs by Woodbury are followed with equal dexterity by Justin Nelson on piano. “Caribe” (composed by Michael Camilo) rips through a Latin-infused jam that features double stops, nimble phrasing and interesting tempo shifts. Drummer Jay Lawrence delivers percussive solos and breaks, aided by the confident piano coloration. An original composition, “Sweet Dreams” moves in and out of waltz and standard times with an emphasis on stylized expression. Dave Holland’s “Shifting Sands” opts for a quintet ensemble as violin and trombone (Brian Woodbury) exchange counterpoint leads in crisp unison. The piece segues into a relaxed drifting piano interlude, before resuming the dual lead.
A refreshing arrangement of “Maple Leaf Rag” is delivered in a nimble duet with bassist Matt Larson. With improvisation flair, Woodbury energizes the ragtime classic. Spontaneous runs and inventive articulation underline his considerable talent. Switching to violin and tenor saxophone leads, “You Are My Sunshine” approximates an edgy, bluesy cadence. Nielsen’s crescendo laden piano solo is scintillating. Woodbury is adroit, alternating fierce licks on the violin with cool, fluid tenor play, giving a new face to a traditional song.
Curtis Woodbury is an emerging talent, with talent to spare.
TrackList: The Eternal Triangle; Sweet Dreams; Shifting Sands; Laura’s Dream; Caribe; Maple Leaf Rag; You Are My Sunshine; Hinjew
— Robbie Gerson