April 27, 2017
April on the hill, while one of the busiest months, also happens to be jazz appreciation month. Despite the hustle and bustle of his schedule, Professor of music “Doc” Michael Woods took time to honor this important month with a special concert, “Doc and Friends,” on Wednesday, April 19.
This concert was not only a refreshing break in a stressful month, but also a wonderful display of the musical diversity in Hamilton’s community. The set spanned the jazz canon in terms of style and expression. Tunes ranged from blues- drenched slow grooves to free jazz inspired compositions to Herbie Hancockesque fusion stylizations.
The debut of Doc’s nine movement suite included the following selections: “Consider This,” “Yooh Gotta Start Sum Where,” “A Way of Escape,” “A Spark Remains,” “A Bowl of Embers,” “Nowness,” “Peace it Together,” “Revival” and “Sittin High’n Lookin’ Low.” Doc Woods presented musicians to match the caliber of his compositions.
The all-star line-up included Tom Witkowski on keyboard and synth, Jakubu Griffin on drums, Javon Jackson on tenor saxophone, Melissa Gardiner on trombone, Jeff Stockham on trumpet, Joe Handy on guitar and last but never least, Doc Woods on the bass. The musicians demonstrated melodic ingenuity in their solos throughout the performance.
The star guests of the evening were tenor sax player Javon Jackson and Jakubu Griffin. The technical mastery of Jackson’s playing stood out in his tone and phrasing. His blend with the band was expertly balanced, and the nuance of his solos displayed a constant flow of new and evocative melodic ideas.
Similarly, Jakubu Griffin impressed the audience with the range of his rhythmic vocabulary. The drummer is oftentimes the most critical variable in a band success; this is especially true in jazz. There was no question that Jakubu’s playing was a success—he never missed a beat.
Griffin not only provided the rhythmic foundation for the band, but also took solos that displayed a thoughtful reaction to his bandmates in the form of rhythmic interpretations of complex melodic ideas.
Doc’s banter added character to the concert experience and gave the audience a unique taste of his style and inspirations.
Most tunes were prefaced by short story from Doc. These stories ranged from puns to serious commentary on the evils of racism and greed in our society. I was fortunate enough to get an inside look at Doc’s musical process during a short interview with him this week. Doc Woods shared a few sources of his inspiration for the “Doc and Friends” concert.
He commented on the first tune in the set, “Consider This,” stating; “That was the first thing to start out the concert; considering all the things that happen for, with, and to human beings, for our benefit, for our good will. All of these things are provided for you, none of which you have to pay for and then consider that you’re sitting here listening to a nine movement suite that somebody wrote for you.”
His enlightening commentary continued down the set list with reflections on tunes such as “Yooh Gotta Start Sum Where” sharing, “whatever it is you want you gotta start somewhere… that’s why it and layers up.
The greatest seduction in the world is to give up on your dream…and the temptation is to quit halfway through.” This was not a concert to miss.
Whether or not you made it to this concert last week, I highly recommend making the next concert Doc presents a top priority in your calendar.