Thumbed by the Blackberry Bro, Nigel Campbell
Saxophone leads in jazz have been in the Coleman Hawkins-Charlie Parker-John Coltrane school or regrettably in the Kenny G mode. Anthony Woodroffe Jr. thankfully is in the former group of influences. While I looked forward to original fusion of the kind already covered by pianists, I made do with an original, “Yeah, No, Maybe” (what a title), when La Casa de Ibiza lit up for yet another Jazz and Fusion Tuesdays, June 14, 2011. The melody was a hummable one, which was a good sign. It was almost a two-step beat with much space for improvisation. Anthony and electric guitarist Dean Williams provided ample proof of that. I would best describe this composition as frenetic and fun. The audience came away mesmerised and on the release offered up much applause.
La Casa de Ibiza’s ambience on the night was that of a respectful, young jazz audience who was chill to say the least. The band worked it well though with titles like ”My Funny Valentine,” that was given a modern rent-a-tile groove. I like.
“God, this group swinging. Drummer Karl Doyle and bassist Peter Noel working! One thing, the day drummers learn about brushes, I will be happy!”
Another school of “jazz” saxophone is that of the funk-jazz groups led by the likes of Maceo Parker and Fela Kuti. Channelling this style, Anthony transformed “People Make The World Go Around” (Stylistics) into a funk-jazz-soca hybrid that had heads bopping.
By the way, Mark Brewster’s piano playing was fresh with improvisational ideas, doing Nat Adderley justice.
The same could not be said for the sound engineer. Stanley Turrentine’s “Sugar” sounded discordant. Nevertheless, the audience loved it when Mark and Karl were having a jazz conversation, trading fours.
Grover Washington Jr.’s “Winelight” had Tony Paul, whose main instrument in the sax, singing at that point. (He and I have an inside joke about part of his performance which I won’t share out of respect for his musicianship!). Grover Washington played ‘Winelight.” Kurt Elling sang it. Tony did both. Finally, another sax man, Jesse Ryan joined Anthony Woodroffe Jr. on stage. Theirs was a collaboration, not competition. Think Kenny Garrett.
For an encore, they did an improvisation on “Happy Birthday” – for two saxes – followed by Lord Nelson’s “Meh Lover.” Jazzalypso for you. We need these two on stage more often! Both Ryan and Woodroffe will be pursuing higher education in music at Berklee and Leeds University. Trinidad and Tobago will be the beneficiary. To quote Max Senhouse, “We needs the money!” This band of musicians, led by Anthony Woodroffe Jr., all of whom are under the age of 30, are competent in art and improvisation. However, an audience must be built that could sustain them locally for the year in aggregations that add variety such as we saw tonight. All things being equal, those who stayed until the end, got a taste of the future of jazz in TT, and the future looks bright.