William Woods,
Cobalt Blue
(self-produced, 2004)

William Woods enters my life at a time when I'm exploring what jazz can offer to my world. I have found some exciting pieces along the way, but I am impatient and like to connect within three listens of an album -- that is, connect or disconnect.

I find the mood of the album contemplative, yet pulsing with life. Strength in numbers helped create the album, but I feel it is solely the piano player, Woods, whom the album depends on to stand up and follow through. Perhaps it's just the personality of his playing that makes me think that. Very strong, very precise.

The piano takes center stage, played proficiently by Woods, also the composer of 11 jazz tunes. Producer Regis Branson assists with keyboards, bass, drums, percussion and vocals. A surprisingly diverse group helps make up the rest of the album. There's Vincent Henry and Mark Friedman with offerings of soprano saxophone, Robert DeBellis gives us the alto sax and Bernard Davis takes a turn on drums and percussion.

Though this is termed smooth sax in the notes, I hear and feel a bit of new-age techno, not fast or wild, but a modern move that contrasts in an interesting way with the fine old-world tone of the piano.

You could play this anywhere. It's easy listening. It's also reserved, but there's a deeper quality that retains one's interest past a sense of the present. Woods trips his fingers over the keys as if he would like to take this many places but restrains from unleashing a wild frenzy. A deep heart-beat in some pieces keeps the music earthy while the other instruments soar and wander. "Blue Me Down" is a good example.

Cobalt blue is a color but it's also a radioactive substance used in x-rays. Because Woods is a doctor of radiation oncology, one might think this album could be a disciplined release of emotional tailings. And while he might aspire to compose memorandums to the spirit as well as to the body he treats, I would say if this is the case, he does it well. The good doctor dedicated this album to five patients "who have touched his life." We're left to interpret that for ourselves. I wonder about the "Drama Queen."

This is a curious album of serious beauty. It pretends to be upbeat but there are threads that keep moving, pushing you on, none that tarry or linger. Woven through a gracious pretense of laidback and dreamy are thin tracks that carry you ahead tenderly perhaps, but decisively.

The mixes are unique and Woods' luxurious talent makes this a wonderful album if you're looking for a dynamic, contemplative and motivating style of music. It was too restless for me, but I'm sure it would have a lot to offer someone more attuned to this style of jazz.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 29 January 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.