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After years on the skins, Astoria’s Brian Woodruff takes first crack at leading a jazz band
By Morgan Rousseau
Thursday, June 11, 2009 11:43 AM EDT
“The Tarrier” is the new release from composer, drummer and Astoria resident Brian Woodruff, a longtime New York jazz musician hoping to hit a broad musical audience with his first album. The CD is set to
release June 15 and will be followed by an album release party featuring the entire ensemble of “The Tarrier” on June 28 at the Blue Owl in Manhattan.
“Tarrier” is a collection of songs composed by Woodruff over a long period of time. Many of the songs were ones Woodruff had previously begun composing and revived for the album. The eight songs
each have a story behind them.
The album’s title track was inspired by a game of chess a few years back. On that particular occasion Woodruff was winning most of the games — until the endgame.
“Turn after turn, my friend watched as I missed opportunities for checkmate as I tried to bring in more pieces and even get an extra queen. I lost a few of those games and the most embarrassing of them
ended in a stalemate,” he said. “He loves to bring that one up in conversation. ‘You did everything you needed to do, and then you tarried.’”
In future games, whenever Woodruff and his friends found anyone guilty of bragging and taunting they labeled him The Tarrier and joked that it sounded like a Blue Note title, like The Sidewinder or The
Woodruff said he put a special effort into composing “A Wreath of Cloud.”
“I manufactured the middle section by working on it for two hours a day and throwing half of it out. It took me two weeks to finish it,” he said. In the end, he feels like he came up with a good product, though
the process was not how he usually works.
All of the songs are performed by Woodruff on the drums along with the rest of his sextet — Lisa Parrott on alto and soprano saxophones, Jacob Varmus on trumpet and cornet, Alan Ferber on trombone,
Nate Radley on guitar and Matt Clohesy on bass.
Woodruff is quick to credit these musicians, citing them as components of the album’s charm. He names Parrott as a fabulous musician who makes the sax sound the way he wants it to sound. “She has a
soul way of interpreting and suggesting time. She’s subtle and really exact at same time,” Woodruff said.
A fellow Astoria resident, Clohesy has played with Woodruff for about 10 years. “He’s one of the best bass players I’ve ever had a chance to play with. I’m always worried about him being bored because he
interprets so fast,” Woodruff said.
Woodruff had previously collaborated with Radley and Varmus. Since 2002 Varmus and Woodruff have worked together, putting out two recordings under Varmus’ Crow’s King label. “Terminal Stillness” has
yet to be released, and “All The Things We Still Can Be” was already released.
Woodruff said he wanted to include Radley because he “felt where he is going as a soloist is really powerful and dramatic all the time.”
But “Tarrier” is a first time collaboration between Woodruff and trombonist Alan Ferber. “When I went to see his nonet, I was so inspired by it. Some of the CD was old, and it was renewed for the sextet
because of Alan,” Woodruff said.
Woodruff lived in Newburgh, N.Y., until the age of 15 before moving to Connecticut. He received a bachelor of music degree in applied percussion from the University of Connecticut in 1990 and a master’s
degree in jazz and commercial music from the Manhattan School of Music in 1995. Since then, Woodruff has had a vibrant career in music, extending his talent throughout the United States, Asia and
Europe. Woodruff is currently on the faculty of the Brooklyn Music School and Long Island Conservatory.
Woodruff has also performed with Bobby Watson, David Lahm, Harvie S, Jiggs Whigham, Jerry Hahn, Gary Versace and Adam Niewood, to name a few. Most recently Woodruff has been performing
alongside The Jacob Varmus Quintet, The New−Trad Octet, The Komeda Project, Todd Schneider and Carol Sudhalter and the Astoria Big Band, among others.
Although Woodruff has been featured on other albums “The Tarrier” is Woodruff’s first release of his own creation.
“Releasing it is really inspiring because I can go forward with everything. I feel like I can finally present it in a way that I’ve always wanted to and I’m very happy about that,” Woodruff said.
The album will be available for purchase at CDbaby.com, iTunes and Amazon.com on June 15. The CD release party at the Blue Owl will be held from 8 − 11 p.m. June 28 and will cost $5 at the door. A
schedule of Woodruff’s upcoming performances can be found at myspace.com⁄woodruffbrian.