Third album of engagingly intelligent jazz with a rocking world-folk edge performed with vigour and flair. Featuring Tony Woods-saxes, Mike Outram-guitar, Rob Millett-vibes, Andy Hamill-bass, Milo Fell-drums.
Woods' consistently draws inspiration from the elements. His first album was High Seas, the second Lowlands. And what I like above all about Woods' music are those moments when a door is suddenly opened, and unexpected fresh air, the outdoors, nature, or even anarchy get invited in.
In the first track, Driftwood, Woods is burbling, arpeggiating on alto clarinet. You can tell that at some point in his life, as an English clarinet player, he has paid his dues to the pastoral tradition of Finzi and Stanford. But from [3:17] onwards, there is a transformation, the rules, the maths, the physics have gone, nature has taken hold. The alto clarinet is suddenly a seagull. Then it's a foghorn warning the dinghies to get out of the way.
In the second track, Air, Woods is on soprano sax. From nowhere, the band is suddenly pumping out full-on English folk-rock. And the end of the track has Milo Fell on drums and Mike Outram on guitar mischievously choreographing a surprise train-crash.
Mike Outram plays the sweetest wailing rock guitar in Britain. It's a sound of great beauty, and the recording captures it well. In Bitter Sweet, he holds back, serene, allowing Woods to explore the contrasting rougher sound possibilities of the alto sax. But the end of his solo in Transformation he steps right out of the cool, and socks out in-your-face and defiant dissonance, but then returns to sweetness. I can almost picture an "it-wasn't-me-ref" smile.....
The album has such a range of instrumental colour, well caught by the recording. Woods himself plays soprano and alto saxes and alto clarinet, sometimes cleverly multiplied by overdubbing. He also has features on Indian wood flute and chinese hulusi (a bagpipe drone effect). On Driftwood the alto sax voice explores deep into tenor territory, and bassist Andy Hamill has a convincing excursion on harmonica. Rob Millett plays vibraphone, and , on The North Wind, marimba.
The feel of the band works together well as a unit , and I was surprised to note that there had been such long gaps between recording sessions.
The first session- the title track Wind Shadows- was in November 2006. The most recent- The North Wind Doth Blow- in March '09.In fact it's quite a journey: in one of the gaps, Woods got married.
I'm looking forward to hearing the band live on June 9th.