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Bill Evans reviews Pots and Kettles by Woody Witt Woody Witt: Pots And Kettles

by Bill Evans,
Jazz Legend

Jazz is a form of expression. Like any language, it takes a lifetime of performing and learning in order to play at the highest level, to allow it to sound effortless and free.  Regardless of which instrument you decide to use as your vehicle to play jazz, the basic idea of jazz remains the same. It is a story that is being told from the performer to the listener. It is intimate, humorous, whimsical, and abstract. These are adjectives I would use to describe the latest work by saxophonist/ composer Woody Witt.

Based out of Houston, Texas, Woody has been performing for most of his life. The main goal of most jazz musicians is to tell a story with their music and take the listener on their own personal musical journey. Woody accomplishes this and far more on his eighth cd as a leader called "Pots and Kettles."

The cd starts out with the title track, "Pots and Kettles." It is reminiscent of the writing of the late great Don Grolnick, with its very childlike melody. Woody starts his solo slowly, building to an emotional crescendo that releases into an exciting piano solo by Gary Norian. To complete the rhythm section, there is Anthony Sapp, bass, Mark Simmons, drums, and Chris Cortez, guitar (on 3 tracks). They all have the sensitivity to really shine as individuals with their own personal styles. I, as the listener feel they can really communicate as one unit, playing off each other's nuances and allowing the music to flow effortlessly.

The second song, called "Listen Here," is practically a Soul Jazz classic made popular by the late great saxophonist Eddie Harris and pianist Les McCann from their "Live in Montreux" session recorded in 1969. Here, Woody shows us his soulful side, while tipping his hat to Harris. The rhythm section grooves and swings hard. Harris would have been proud!

With gorgeous ballads like "Never Very Far" and "Just Because," you hear some of the depth and beauty of this recording. The music is allowed to breathe and take on a spirit all its' own.

"Pots and Kettles" is a refreshing work of music by musicians who are playing the art form at its highest level. While listening I am sometimes reminded of the old Blue Note jazz recordings of the early sixties, while at the same time, the writing and playing is very contemporary and modern. Like a piece of art, I'm sure with each listen I will hear different things in the music. This music is ageless. 





Jazz

Entre Luz et Montauban : deux soirs à Toulouse
(Review of recent concert in Toulouse, France)


Jeudi 4 mars 2010, La Fabrique culturelle, Université Toulouse-Le Mirail (31)
Christine Wodrascka, Geneviève Foccroulle (p)

Vendredi mars 2010, Hotel Mercure-Atria, Toulouse (31)
Franck Amsallem (p), Woody Witt (ts), Sylvain Romano (cb)

En deux soirées consécutives, Toulouse a démontré qu'elle est à sa manière une ville de jazz marquée par son histoire et sa situation géographique. Tout commence jeudi après-midi dans les nouveaux locaux de l'Université du Mirail. Grâce à l'énergie de Jean-Pierre Layrac &emdash; le fondateur du fameux Jazz à Luz &emdash; et l'aide des membres de Un Pavé dans le Jazz, une association qui organise des concerts d'improvisation libre et de musiques tangentielles, Christine Wodrascka et Geneviève Foccroulle ont animé une Master Class sur l'improvisation libre auprès des étudiants de la filière jazz du département de musique. Cette initiative était couronnée par un concert dans ce nouveau bâtiment dédié à la diffusion des arts dans l'Université (nommé La Fabrique) le soir même. Les deux pianistes se sont livrées à une prestation qui mêlait autant le versant ludique de l'improvisation libre (l'une des deux pianistes devait rejouer le plus vite possible la ou les notes jouées par sa partenaire par exemple) que celui davantage redevable aux sonorités explorées au cours de la seconde moitié du XXe siècle (on pouvait penser à Kurtag, aux textures de Ligeti, à Cage pour l'usage du piano préparé, etc.). Grand succès auprès d'un public majoritairement estudiantin et ravis de découvrir de nouvelles possibilités sonores.

Mais si Luz est au sud de Toulouse, au Nord il y a Montauban, ville natale de Hugues Panassié. Et les Hot Club de France ont laissé une empreinte assez forte dans la ville rose. Sous l'égide de son président, Olivier Boulliat, l'association Le Jazz pour Tous organise donc des concerts dominés par les _style_s New Orleans, Blues, Swing, etc. tout au long de l'année. Ce qui ne l'empêche pas d'avoir programmé Brad Mehldau en 2009. Mais vendredi soir, c'était Franck Amsallem qui était invité à se produire à l'hotel Mercure-Atria. Ce dernier - qui, quelques jours plus tôt s'était lui aussi produit à La Fabrique du Mirail, en duo avec Olivier Ker Orio - avait décidé d'inviter le ténor Woody Witt. En trio sans batterie, l'ensemble donna deux sets respectables, avec un répertoire de standards et de compositions personnelles. Parmi les meilleurs moments, signalons notamment une improvisation du pianiste français sur Alone Together tout à fait originale et exploratrice, basée sur une ligne mélodique en septièmes parallèles d'un savoureux effet. Quant à Woody Witt, avec une belle sonorité, bien large et égale sur tout le registre de son instrument, il fit preuve d'une grande efficacité dans les up tempos et d'un lyrisme proche du Stan Getz mâle de « Captain Marvel ».

Deux concerts, deux versants &emdash; extrêmes &emdash; de la vie jazzistique du jazz en province, loin du foisonnement parisien, certes, mais vivace.

— March 4, 2010
http://www.jazzmagazine.com/index.php?option=com_fireboard&func=view&id=1532&catid=14#1532



Jazz Chicago

Jazz Chicago
Review: New Releases From Woody Witt

"A Conversation
(Blue Bamboo Music)

Houston-based saxophonist Witt has been making a name for himself, and he showcases his wide-ranging talent on these two strong releases. On "A Conversation," Witt brings his classically-trained, full-bodied, post-Coltrane sound to bear on both tenor and soprano saxophones. Joining him are perceptive veteran drummer Soph, and bassist/guitarist Hamilton, who plays one of the two instruments at a time - something that helps add an extra dimension to the recording. All of the songs are Witt originals that recall traditional sax trio elements, while charting new and gratifying new paths.

"Oddly Even" starts things off by living up to its name with an unusual rhythmic feel and Witt hinting at Coltrane and Brecker on his tenor. Hamilton switches to guitar, as Witt moves to soprano on "Clear Skies" and it is a winning combination on this somewhat atmospheric piece. Drummer Soph should also be commended for his interesting work on the drum kit and the balance between the three members is admirable. This sets the tone for the recording as a whole, where more uptempo numbers like "Ne As Jah," "Barracuda" and "Steppin'" alternate with quieter numbers like "Empty Room" and the ballad, "Forever and Always." The powerful "5 X 5" ends this compelling recording on a high note that leaves the listener wanting more from this combo.

"Seasons Ago - The Songs of Alec Wilder
(Heart Music)

Witt's release with long-time musical partner, pianist Joe Locasio, Seasons Ago, finds this duo exploring some of the songs of the underappreciated American songwriter, Alec Wilder, and the listening public can certainly be pleased that they have unearthed buried treasures like his "A Month in the Country," "Blackberry Winter" and "Moon and Sand" and brought them back out into the light of day. Pianist Marian McPartland offered up a previous recording of the multi-talented Wilder's works in 1973, but the composer's songbook of sophisticated, often melancholic compositions was barely touched - this recording only offers one overlap - the haunting "Where Are The Good Companions?"

On this pleasing record, Witt sticks to soprano throughout, and his classical tone is the perfect complement to Locasio's lush voicings, as they combine to capture the composer's romantic yearnings perfectly. The high level of musicality and years of experience playing together is easily apparent, and the richness of the playing might lead one to suspect that there is an orchestra lurking in the background rather than a mere duet program. Presented in a crisp and warm recording of tremendous loveliness, this album avoids growing stale, thanks to the fresh trove of absorbing songs and sensitive relation of the two exemplary players involved. I've been enjoying this recording over and over as therapy for my troubled soul, and I'm sure you will too.


— Brad Walseth (2009), Jazz Chicago
http://www.jazzchicago.net/reviews/2009/Woody.html



Jazz Chicago

Jazzbo Notes

A Conversation

You’ve got to give saxophonist Woody Witt and Blue Bamboo Music a lot of credit for having the balls to conceive of and put out A Conversation.

First of all, it’s a trio album, in which there is barely a chordal instrument to be found. Woody Witt himself switches between tenor and soprano sax, Fred Hamilton plays either guitar or bass, and Ed Soph mans the drum kit. But the thing is, when Fred Hamilton is playing guitar, he isn’t really comping. He’s playing countermelodies, soloing, or playing around the chords of the composition. That’s what I mean by a chordal foundation barely being there.

This is not a bad thing, but it is very gutsy. Playing jazz without a chordal instrument is extremely hard to pull off. To compound the difficulty, Witt has chosen to have all the songs on the date be originals. Usually, when jazz musicians make a recording of this type, they hedge their bets by including a few standards, to give the listener a musical buoy or two to hold onto. Not here. To make things even more challenging for the listener, no one on the date is driving the groove directly.

For example, Oddly Even is a swing tune, but Fred Hamilton never really walks on bass, and Ed Soph doesn’t play any traditional swing time. The swing time is implied.

Clear Skies, Ne As Jah, and Empty Room lean more towards a sort of ECM label sort of sound, but more aggressive, if that makes any sense. On these tunes, guitarist Fred Hamilton sounds a lot like early Pat Metheny in his tone and approach, but what he’s playing is actually a lot more harmonically sophisticated than what Pat was playing in those days. He uses a lot of arpeggios with wide and unusual voicings. In his melodic lines, he emphasizes lyricism rather than aggressive rhythmic or harmonic commentary.

On bass, Hamilton is a whole different player. He has a full, rich tone. He can walk with authority when he wants to, as on Steppin’, but he usually chooses to leave a lot of space, to imply the form rather than spell it out.

Woody Witt isn’t much interested in impressing the listener with his chops, but he has them. Witt is more about feeling his way through the compositions, finding melodies as he goes. His tone on tenor and soprano saxophone is gentle but full, with a slight vibrato which he employs with great discretion. Every once in a while, Witt will allow a note to crack, or go outside of the range of his horn, but he employs these effects judiciously. It seems like he’s going out of his way to be accessible, to communicate.

Ed Soph reminds me of a someone who used to drum on a lot of ECM dates, Jon Christensen. He consistently plays around the groove, and uses march and martial rhythms a lot.

All three of these guys are almost always soloing at the same time, but at the same they manage to listen to each other, so A Conversation never turns into cacophony — it’s more like a lively conversation among friends.

Actually, it just hit me what these tunes remind me of: an ECM date from the early 80s, Playing, with Don Cherry on trumpet, Dewey Redman on sax, Charlie Haden on bass, and Ed Blackwell on drums. There’s a similar elasticity of time, a reluctance to coddle the listener by spelling out the harmony all the time. Like that live recording, A Conversation is all about communication between musicians who know each other very well — in other words, a conversation. And on that level, A Conversation is very successful.

My main criticism of A Conversation is that none of the heads, vamps or harmonic structures of the original tunes are especially memorable. Let me explain what I mean by that. It is possible, by a number of composing stategies, such as employing repetitive rhythmic motifs, to create hooks for the listener that make a melody or structure stick in the ear of a listener. Composers such as Wayne Shorter, Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman, Miles Davis, and Joe Zawinul consistently pull this off. To my ear, Woody Witt hasn’t managed this admittedly difficult task on A Conversation.

This will make it challenging for many listeners to listen to the group improvisation of these three guys in a context that will help them to connect the dots in the music. They will be forced to accept the music purely on it’s own terms, which is as collective improvisation (nothing wrong with that, by the way). What enjoyment there is in listening to A Conversation derives from appreciating the communication between the three musicians in the moment that it’s occurring. Fortunately for the listener, that communication occurs at a very high level, enough for me to recommend A Conversation.


— Michael Kydonieus - 2/18/2009, Jazzbo Notes
http://jazzbonotes.com/reviews/a-conversation-woody-witt/



JazzHuston.com -- Willows Review

Jazz Houston

Willows

Woody Witt's growth as a jazz artist continues to grow and expand well beyond his home base of Houston. His recordings are a testament to this growth and the maturation of Witt as a musician and saxophonist. Willows (Apria - 2008) represents a new peak in his development as Witt puts forth a very worthy presentation of 6 original works, 4 by the saxophonist and 2 by long-time collaborator, pianist and fellow Houstonian Joe LoCascio.

Joining the pair on the recording is a collection of fine musicians, New York-based saxophonist Tim Armacost, Dallas-area bassist Lynn Seaton, and legendary New York-based drummer Billy Hart. The musicians work extraordinarily well as an ensemble, the saxophones blending with exceptional tuning and precision and the rhythm team demonstrating the support and conversational skills that have established each as some of the finest anywhere on their respective instruments. With the collection of these musicians, Witt has further demonstrated his expanding reach into the mainstream consciousness of jazz listeners outside of Houston.

The CD is highlighted by some wonderfully open compositions which allow the musicians to really stretch ideas and converse freely. Witt's "Trance" proves a fine vehicle for really allowing the musicians to explore many different textures and sounds. Hart and Seaton are particularly locked in together and play as one while still listening to and complimenting the saxophonists. LoCascio's harmonic textures also decorate the saxophones well without detracting from the messages in the solos.

LoCascio's worthy compositional contributions include the lovely, swinging "Not Far Away" and the haunting title track "Willows," where the listener can easily visualize the melancholy, sprawling trees themselves. The saxophonists deliver a particularly engaging performance of the melody, melting into an energetic conversation as the rhythm section keeps the piece rooted to the main theme of the composition.

Another highlight is the opening track, "Passacaglia," also composed by Witt. The track features exquisite soprano work by the saxophonists, playing beautifully in tune despite the notorious difficulty of the instrument, particularly in regard to pitch. The music that comes out is also beautiful. Armacost's performance is truly insightful and pleasurable. LoCascio paints a lovely picture as well, lush and thoughtful. Witt's solo is a wonderful contrast to Armacost, fiery and pointed in Witt's usual high-energy, yet controlled and masterful fashion.

One more shining moment on the recording is Witt's lengthy, but always interesting "Howard Street." Angular in style and composition, the piece has a definite Monk influence. Hart, again, defines the style with true mastery, swinging incredibly hard. The rest of the rhythm section settles easily into the deep pocket Hart establishes to produce a brilliant backside groove for the soloists to stretch over. Witt gives another firey performance, at times angular and biting, then moving to flurries and screams that erupt with energy. LoCascio displays a lovely sense of counterpoint as the rhythm section dissolves into a spacious landscape that provides a wonderfully free canvas without ever losing the swing, later building the story back to the deep pocket of before. Hart and Seaton then alter the landscape once again for Armacost to explore a thematic statement that bounces from straight time to the ever-deep swing pocket. Seaton then provides a truly engaging arco solo that elegantly flows from heady lines to bluesy ideas with ease and logic. Finally, Hart delivers an exceptional drum solo with both chops and melodic taste. He plays very evenly and melodically over the drums, displaying his vast technical skill, but never losing the sense of flow and musicality.

The recording surely displays the love, joy and sense of connection the musicians share with the music and each other. The saxophonists are of a similar ilk and sound amazing together, at times almost indistinguishable when playing ensemble passages. However, they remain distinct voices all their own when playing alone, Armacost providing his pure, bright tone in contrast to Witt's powerful, edgy, "Texas Tenor" influenced sound. Witt has displayed his growth as a player through his performance on the recording, displaying his usual fire, but adding a further sense of refinement and taste. He has grown as a composer through his contributions to this record. Note the beautiful "Forever and Always" as well as the aforementioned works. Finally, he has displayed growth as a bandleader by assembling a collection of musicians that both compliment him and his music as well as challenge him to reach deeper. Witt never seeks the limelight on this recording, but rather acheives a wonderfully collaborative collection of performances with the highest level of playing. Woody Witt's Willows is an excellent example of modern jazz that should be a welcome addition to any jazz fan or afficianado's collection.

— Paul Peacock - June 29, 2009, JazzHouston.com
http://www.jazzhouston.com/articles/words/Witt_Willows



JazzPolice.com Dec. 2008

JazzPolice.com - A Conversation review

JazzPolice.com - Willows review
Lightning Strikes Twice: New Releases From Woody Witt

His first three releases gave notice: In a sea of well-regarded tenor saxophonists, Houston-based Woody Witt was forging an independent voice as performer and composer, as well as displaying a penchant for assembling casts of innovative and complementary musicians. Released in quick succession over the past year, Witt’s fourth and fifth projects find him continuing his artistic development in two different and equally satisfying contexts. A Conversation (Blue Bamboo Music), recorded in late 2007, presents Witt in an intimate trio setting with Fred Hamilton alternating bass and guitar, and Ed Soph on drums. Willows, to be officially released on Apria Records in January, features a two-sax quintet, with Tim Armacost sharing horn duties with Witt, along with bassist Lynn Seaton and long-time Witt cohort Joe LoCascio on piano.

A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Woody Witt has forged a diverse career in music as a performing musician, composer, jazz educator and arts manager. He earned a Bachelor’s in Music (classical saxophone) at the University of Houston, then a Masters in Music (Jazz Studies) from the prestigious University of North Texas, where he taught saxophone and jazz methods; in 2000 he earned a Doctorate in Musical Arts (saxophone performance) at the University of Houston Moores School of Music. Currently Witt teaches fulltime at Houston Community College and is an affiliate artist at the University of Houston, as well as serving as the manager/artistic director of one of Houston's few jazz clubs, Cézanne’s. Witt’s maiden voyage Woody Witt (2002) was followed by acclaimed releases on Apria Records, Square Peg/Round Hole (2005) and Live at Cezanne’s (2007).  His recordings and live performances to date have documented a tenor voice distinguished by the fat tone of tenor legends and the innovative approach to melody and harmony of modern day lions. Noted Frank Rubolino in Cadence, “There is nothing academic about his approach. It is all soul and emotion and his solos ring out with authority.” 

The two new recordings find Woody Witt in familiar company, despite the lack of personnel overlap across the two projects. Joe LoCascio, who has partnered with Witt for nearly two decades, has appeared on Woody Witt and Live at Cezanne’s and is a frequent collaborator on stage. Fred Hamilton, Lynn Seaton and Ed Soph are all on the jazz faculty of Witt’s alma mater, University of North Texas. Fred Hamilton played bass on Live and has partnered with Witt and Soph on live gigs. The quintet with Armacost, LoCascio, Seaton and Hart formed in early 2007, recording Willows live over two performances in October 2007. 

A Conversation

As the title implies, the trio recording is very much a three-way conversation, the lines flowing and interweaving like chatter among friends, varying in emotion and pace. Often a dialogue between Witt and Hamilton on either bass or guitar, the ever-present percussive support from Soph gives every conversation a firm foundation. There’s a very different feel between the bass versus guitar tracks, with the absence of chordal support leaving more room for Witt to venture out. All eight tunes are original Woody Witt compositions. 

“Oddly Even” opens the CD with the first bass track (no overdubs—we hear Hamilton on one or the other instrument), a twisting exercise for Witt on tenor, played out against a roving bassline and nonstop subtle percussion effects. Soloing over Soph, Hamilton effectively double-times the percussionist. “Barracuda” features the two deep voices of Witt’s tenor and Hamilton’s bass. Hamilton is the conversation starter here, his tone rising as if from the bottom of the ocean where the “barracuda” slinks along. Witt and Soph join, the drummer initially pushing the trio ahead with quietly assertive statements, a repeating pattern of hollow pops and cymbal splashes that gradually increases in intensity. Hamilton solos over clickety-click rhythms from Soph who occasionally adds punctuation from cymbals. The threesome engage in friendly banter, Witt the thematic leader but the others hold up their end of the discussion. Soph’s increasingly insistent cadence takes over, his rim rattles demanding the last word. The aptly titled “Steppin” climbs and descends as if on a staircase. Witt leaves no part of the horn out of this discussion, maybe his most forceful statements of the recording, while Hamilton similarly takes his bass along a spiraling staircase of notes. 

The remaining five tracks feature Hamilton on guitar and Witt trading off tenor and soprano sax. “Clear Skies” takes full advantage of the additional melodic texture of guitar and the mournful heart of the soprano sax. Hamilton maintains a balladic line while Witt varies his tempo and energy, from softly melodic to furious, at time an argument, a times a calming exchange. “Ne as Jah” introduces Witt’s tenor with ambient strings, the sax sounding its highest register before tumbling into low growls. Hamilton again takes charge of an animated dialogue with his single-line phrases, off-center arpeggios adding character. Hamilton and Witt (on soprano) weave a beautiful introduction to “Empty Room,” their thoughts in sync but not unison with Fred slightly behind, more of a reflection of Woody’s statements.  Both offeri delicate suggestions as if teens on a first date, gradually taking risks, increasing the intensity of the interaction to expand their palette of ideas and expectations. 

“Forever and Always” (which will be repeated on the later quintet recording) is a haunting melody, Witt’s tenor tale complemented by Hamilton’s prose and Soph’s delicate brushes, the guitar filling in the spaces with somewhat unpredictable but highly compatible voicings. Hamilton’s own soliloquy is eloquent, each note sustained just enough to linger into the next without overdoing the ambient nature. Woody Witt is at his most songful, his slightly nasal vibrato conjuring a slow dance in a quiet after-hours corner. This is a song with worldless lyrics that nevertheless carry immediate meaning, forever and always.  The short finale, “5x 5,” finds Witt exploring the length of his tenor tubing, Hamilton’s sustained guitar chords holding up the structure over its brief lifespan.  

A Conversation was recorded appropriately at a studio in Humble, TX. This is humble, unpretentious, soulful music. 

Willows

Woody Witt’s quintet release was recorded over two live performances, at Houston Community College and at Houston’s Katy High School. Four tracks are Witt’s compositions, while pianist Joe LoCascio contributes the remaining pair. The two horns (both play tenor and soprano) often give the ensemble an orchestral sound, blending seamlessly, trading complementary solos.  

On Witt’s Dolpyish “Passacaglia,” the two sopranos seem to harmonize slightly out of register, one holding a high note as the other descends, leading into long and luxurious explorations. LoCascio follows in similar fashion. Another from Witt, “Trance” has the tonal range and energy of a big band arrangement. First appearing on his eponymous debut recording in one-sax quartet, here we’re treated to a more complex layering of sound, starting with an intro solo from drum master Hart that alternates splash and pop, rumbling across a wide dynamic  and rhythmic range. One by one, bass then piano join in creating a satisfying trio prelude for the two tenors, primarily in unison before Armacost breaks away with a slightly coarse tone, a bit of squeal on top and a bit of buzz in the vibrato. Witt follows with some slippery gymnastics, especially in the lower register while Hart continues his assertive support. This track extends over14 minutes, giving each soloist plenty of exploring opportunities that dissipate in Hart’s rumbles and LoCascio’s phrases. A tighter circle of ideas marks a second round of improvisation before the horns reunite, compatible voices with distinct timbres, their “trance” unbroken as they close in a cacophonous conversation.  

An even longer track, Witt’s “Howard Street” starts with horns together before Witt takes the lead. LoCascio weaves a thick web of chords around spiraling single lines, creating a fine and eccentric braid with Monkish overtones. Seaton keeps the form alive and well. The second horn (Armacost) develops a bluesy pattern reminiscent of “Bemsha Swing” before Seaton’s solo, bowed with some freaky buzzes in the bottom notes, like a creaky door in dire need of a squirt of WD40. The bow’s scraping along multiple strings, sliding and slashing, creates the most intriguing set of sounds of the long track. Hart then launches a drum clinic that explores each part of the kit, every sound in the arsenal. Eighteen minutes is a long while to sustain the listener’s attention, particularly on record, but “Howard Street” succeeds. The shortest track of the set, the quintet version of “Forever and Always” opens with LoCascio’s dissonant chord voicings, providing a darker color and more abstract melody relative to the trio version on A Conversation. Seaton follows, his solo displaying a reflective side as well as his agile pizzicato chops. Hart’s shimmer of cymbals is a segue for the horns, first Witt, then Armacost, evolving into conversation between intimate friends who can finish each other’s thoughts.   

Joe LoCascio contributes two sumptuous compositions to Willows: “Not Far Away” begins with mellow horn harmonies that shifts chromatically, Witt then taking the lead over LoCascio’s spacious comping. It has the feel of a 40s ballad although the harmonies are 21st century, retaining a sense of lyric in the phrasing. Seaton provides a counter bassline that supports and gently propels the ensemble. The pianist’s solos with legato ascents and descents, while Hart lays back with a gentle tingle, throwing out an intermittent cymbal accent. With a sharper edge, Armacost asserts himself, while Hart revs up with some more forceful combinations of the big drums. With both horns harmonizing the final chorus, the voicings take on an edgy tension that seems headed toward resolution, jolted awake by a final piano cadenza and cymbal crash. The pianist’s title track closes the set, with the most orchestral, and perhaps the most freely improvised, composition. “Willows” has the majesty of a Maria Schneider score, with Witt on soprano, Armacost on tenor. At times as danceable as a big band ballad, Hart washes it all in sheer elegance.  

Anyone looking for an introduction to the musical magic of Woody Witt will find this pair of recordings an ample sampling of his gifts as performer, composer and bandleader. Each composition and arrangement brings forth diverse ideas and intelligent cohesion, displaying a clear nod to tradition with an equally clear vision of where that tradition can be pushed and stretched, giving the listener plenty of enjoyment and intrigue. One can hope that Woody Witt will continue his explorations with both sets of musical partners, in trio, quintet, or other combinations. 


— Andrea Canter, JazzPolice.com - December 2008
http://www.jazzpolice.com/content/view/8026/55/


Jazz Imporov March 2008 Jazz Improv NY Magazine

An Interview with Woody Witt is featured in their March 2008 Issue.
See the magazine


Live At Cezanne - CD Cover Live at Cezanne's

“...an artist quickly developing a reputation as an up-and-coming blistering modern tenor player in the tradition of Michael Brecker and Chris Potter. Witt's warm tone and strong upper register have become trademarks in a style that can vary from rooted hard-bop to nuanced free playing.”
Read the entire review
— Andrew Lienhard, Jazz Houston February 2007

“It is evident that Witt's formidable technique -- which ranges from energetic and inspired solos that pour forth effortlessly, to breath-full coloring in ballad playing -- is a conduit for something even deeper.”
Read the entire review
— Michele Brangwen, Arts Houston April 2007

“...a coherent 9-track suite where one composition flows seamlessly into the next, including short interludes of spontaneous improvisation. Planned or not in advance, this strategy furthers the listener's sense of a live date.”
“Outside the big clubs and the big labels, it's even more reassuring to know that there are musicians like [Woody Witt] who, on any given day, blow with as much intensity and creativity as [their] more touted counterparts.”
Read the entire review
— Andrea Canter, Jazz Police October 2007

Live At Cezanne is also listed as one of Andrea Canter's top 10 recordings of 2007. Read the entire review


Square Peg Round Hole - CD Cover Square Peg Round Hole

“Mr. Witt writes engaging charts for the band (all but one are his) and his tenor can scorch with a fire that hearkens to Joe Henderson at his best – and can remind one at times of Lovano, Bergonzi, Weiskopf and some shades of middle-period Trane, which is all to say that he is at the top of his game.”
Read the entire review
— Grego Applegate Edwards, Cadence May 2006

“In the fine, straightahead Square Peg, Round Hole, Houston-based saxophonist Woody Witt demonstrates a virtuosic, well-rounded tenor conception that embraces not only the familiar Michael Brecker-like approach to the Coltrane heritage but also the bluesy soulful ness of the great Texas tenor stylists.”
Read the entire review
JazzTimes February 2006

“Recorded in just five hours, from a compositional standpoint, Square Peg's most apparent influence is Kenny Wheeler, whose work Witt has been studying. ‘His writing just sounds open to me,’ he said. ‘His melodies have interesting intervallic shapes, wide skips and are romantic in the European classical tradition.’
Read the entire review
— Paul MacArthur, Downbeat April 2006

“His musical expression is an example of why the tenor is perhaps the best member of the saxophone family as a lead or solo instrument. The baritone, alto, and soprano have their moments, but they don't hold a candle to the tenor for its emotional range.”
Read the entire review
— Woodrow Wilkins Jr., All About Jazz

“The title of Houston-based saxophonist Woody Witt’s new recording, Square Peg/Round Hole (Apria, 2005) implies things won’t fit together! But to the contrary, Witt has assembled one of the most sympathetic collaborations I’ve heard in a long time, one that suggests the best small ensembles of the Coltrane/Davis/Blakey eras.”
Read the entire review
— Andrea Canter, JazzPolice.com

“Eight out of the nine tracks were written by Witt and this album not only displays his saxophone bravura, but his compositional chops as well.”
Read the entire review
— Nathan Holaway, JazzReview.com

Square Peg Round Hole the latest release by Houston’s own Woody Witt is smart jazz at its finest.”
Read the entire review
— Laurie Quoyeser

“Woody Witt continues the tradition of great 'Texas Tenors' with a big fat sound,
fresh ideas and a decidedly modern and original approach to improvisation and composition. A perfect combination of building on the past and searching for the future.”
— Randy Brecker, Grammy award winning trumpeter/composer

“(This new recording) may well be one of the year's best jazz albums...refreshing, often mesmerizing compositions...firmly establishes his mastery of the ballad.”
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— Andrew Lienhard, editor, jazzhouston.com


Much More to Say begins as a sultry tune that expresses well Witt's desire to use his saxophone as a voice. ‘I sing. That's how I view it. I sing through the instrument,’ he says.
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— Sara Cress, Houston Chronicle, August 31, 2005



Woody Witt
“...a confident storyteller of depth and distinction.”
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— Miles Willis, "Milestones" on
90.5 KPFT

“It is all soul and emotion, and his solos ring out with authority.”
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— Frank Rubolino, Cadence April 2003

“...maintaining the purity of the sax sound...complete mastery over the big horn.”
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— David Nathan, AllAboutJazz.com

“Top line contemporary jazz by Woody and his friends, covering all the bases and done with passion and grace.”
— David Liebman, saxophonist with Miles
Davis, Elvin Jones and others

“...his tenor sound is quite firmly in the hear and now...”
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— Kelly Dean,
jazzhouston.com

The Jazz Zine says “this CD was a joy to listen to.”
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“Wonderful CD: great big sound with much depth, nice tunes, swingin’, everyone is killin’, hope to hear more from you!”
— Randy Brecker

“This debut CD from Woody Witt is marked by a highly interactive and tightly knit quartet, a great choice of material (mostly by Woody Witt and Joe LoCascio). Throughout the CD, Woody shows a rare control of the upper register and a warm, fat tone belying his classical training and deep jazz roots. The quartet members all shine individually: Joe LoCascio’s great tunes, probing solos and incisive comping, David Craig's solid yet stimulating bass lines and Tim Solook's melodic and always swinging drums. A wonderful CD which grows with each hearing.”
— Jeff Gardner

       
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