Album Review: A Centering Peace from Brian Woodruff Sextet
Artist: Brian Woodruff Sextet
Label: QJOG Records
A Centering Peace is the third offering from the Brian Woodruff Sextet led by drummer-composer-bandleader Brian Woodruff. Supported by Michael Rodrigues on trumpet, Lisa Parrott on soprano and alto saxophones, Alan Ferber on trombone, Pete McCann on guitar, and Matt Clohesy on bass, Woodruff guides the band through a continuous flux of extemporaneous solos and melodic phrasing. The passages flare and ebb organically, amassing kaleidoscopic fluctuations. There is a rawness in the refined parlance of the sextet that is traditional to the jazz milieu while flexing the creative leanings of each musician.
Vocalist Elisabeth Lohninger imprints a swinging, sultry vibe on “King Size Blues” that is entrancing. The slinky swagger of Lisa Parrott’s alto sax is complemented by the sleek puffs of Alan Ferber’s trombone, encircling Lohninger’s vocals like a lush feather boa. The lyrics speak about facing a love that’s gone as Lohninger purrs with a classic elegance and a sage-like voicing reminiscent of Mildred Bailey,as she laments, “His Queen size bed sure feels like a King size night / Since his lady left him…He won’t have to call her to tell her when he’s coming home..He’s been leaving the seat up / Drinking straight out of the jug / Cause there is no one there to nag him and there is no one there to bug…They can love and support you / But they can’t help you with what’s inside your head / If you want that from your lover / You might just push them away instead / He may be all alone now but he’s happy in his King size bed.”
The perky tempo of “What Happened” displays a vibrancy in Michael Rodriguez’s trumpet that lifts the spirit, accentuated by the jaunty toots of Parrott’s alto sax. The chord changes are inspired by the Gershwin brothers iconic melody “I Got Rhythm,” according to the press release. Woodruff’s drumming acclimates to the buoyant atmosphere, providing a steady base for the soaring horns. Conversely, the title track is a torchlight tune, featuring the languid bass pulls of Matt Clohesy and willowy furls of Parrott’s alto sax as Lohninger’s caressing vocals wrap softly around the lyrics. The sextet changes course again on “Undertow,” delivering electrified guitar riffs played by Pete McCann that slice blazing streaks across the track, trading off solos with the swirling figures of Rodriguez’s trumpet and Ferber’s trombone.
A Centering Peace flexes the individuality of each member of the sextet as well as their penchant to complement one another. Their parlance is both raw and refined with phrases that fluctuate between being spontaneous and melodically-driven. As a band, the sextet might be newbies to the jazz milieu with only three recordings to their name but their playing present them as seasoned musicians, possessing the instincts to synchronize each other’s parts as a cohesive ensemble.
Brian Woodruff – drums
Michael Rodriguez – trumpet
Lisa Parrott – soprano and alto saxophone
Alan Ferber – trombone
Pete McCann – guitar
Matt Clohesy – bass
Elisabeth Lohninger – Guest Vocalist