Home Music Brian Woodruff Sextet: A Centering Peace

Brian Woodruff Sextet: A Centering Peace

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Brian Woodruff Sextet: A Centering Peace
Photograph courtesy of the artiste

This third release from the drumming composer and musician Brian Woodruff is easily one of his most ambitious undertakings. It attempts to evoke – using the landscape of contemporary music – the mystical thinking of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit priest, scientist, paleontologist, theologian, philosopher and teacher. Teilhard de Chardin was Darwinian in outlook whose evolutionary influences were set in the grand design of theology and Christian philosophical thinking.

The album’s apogee is also entitled A Centering Peace and advocates a Zen-like melding of Teilhard de Chardin’s evocations in both its most radical and established guises. It was written, booklet notes tell us, in celebration of the 75th birthday of Monsignor Edward Straub [the drummer’s spiritual guide], and to commemorate his 50th Anniversary in the priesthood. That centrepiece of the album is profound and dwells in a meditative groove propelled by whispered drumming and warm chamber music played by this ensemble. Making up for the more reflective opening and that title song the rest of the material on this otherwise swinging repertoire which ends in a bluesy dénouement, is unflinching in its contemporary theatrical immediacy [as opposed to the reflective movement of “A Centering Peace”].

All these musicians led by brass and woodwinds – and occasionally the luminous voice of Elisabeth Lohninger – combine to guide us through this music with unselfregarding aplomb. There are no gratuitously explosive moments and yet the music heats up as it bubbles and boils in the sizzle and bop of Mr Woodruff’s melodious yammering and hot sizzle of the cymbals. This rollicking groove is further cemented by the rock steady bass of Matt Clohesy. Soloists such as Michael Rodriguez, Lisa Parrott, Alan Ferber and Pete McCann step out to create a strikingly engaging dialogue between the various dramatis personae in the ensemble, and to perform these works with deeply interiorised emotion.

There is a glowing potency informed by supreme technical delivery [by the musicians] and this elevates the music with lustrous and gently penetrating emotional impact. The arrangements and performance are both discreet and yet integral, and the overall quality of the production adds up to a very significant, incrementally impressive reading of this quite wonderful music.

Track list – 1: The Welcome Song; 2: What Happened; 3: A Centering Peace; 4: War Paint; 5: {Pirouette en dedans; 6: Every Detail Minding; 7: Undertow; 8: Freeway Doctor East; 9: King Size Blues

Personnel – Michael Rodriguez: trumpet; Lisa Parrott: alto and soprano saxophones; Alan Ferber: trombone; Pete McCann: guitar; Matt Clohesy: bass; Brian Woodruff: drums; Elisabeth Lohninger: vocals [1, 3, 9]

Released – 2021
Label – QJOG Records
Runtime – 56:27

Raul da Gama is a poet and essayist. He has published three collections of poetry, He studied at Trinity College of Music, London specialising in theory and piano, and he has a Masters in The Classics. He is an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep technical and historical understanding of music and literature.

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