Drum Hit

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 Preacher.

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.



OKB Trio


“It’s tough for contemporay jazz trio to distinguish themselves so slearly from similar ensembles, but OKB manages to do it quite easily…this trio sounds incredibly fluid in an entirely intuitive way, and that comes from pure, unadulterated chemistry…they get it down like no one else.  So there’s something quite special about this inaugural offering, a combination of community love and support and getting everything right by doing it yourself.  It shows in every note of this excellent album.”


-Marc Phillips, The Vinyl Anachronist


“The joy this trio plays and interacts with is obvious…The OKB Trio has many facets to the way they play and their original compositions have a luster that is heartfelt and musically complete.  Not just a musician to musician album, though filled with plenty of top-notch playing and composing, The Ing… takes a step forward and remembers the musicality this genre once offered aplenty.”


-Elberton Cisnero, 5 Finger Review


“Warm and classy swing.”


-George W. Harris, jazzweekly.com


“Whether OKB Trio plays originals or cover songs, the group’s chemistry shines. “The Ing” is full of a swinging energy on tracks as varied as “Hi-Heel Sneakers” to “El Padrino”…”


-Dodie Miller-Gould, lemonwire.com

The Tarrier

Brian Woodruff’s “The Tarrier” swings sweetly with a dry understated with that reveals rhtymically well-designed and harmonically sophisticated track work.”

-Will Romano, Modern Drummer

“Brian Woodruff’s engaging new release “The Tarrier” is a refreshing new sound that will definitely grab your attention from the opening track.  Containing excellent charts performed by a solid cadre of players, “The Tarrier” will have the ear of the critics and the approval of jazz audiences once they sample this very fine dish.”

“Edward Blanco, eJazzNews.com

“…an album that is a near-must. “Chorale” gives the sextet led by drummer Brian Woodruff the opportunity to present a beautifully harmonic chorale with a jazz flavor.”

-Bob Karlovits, Pittsburgh Tribune

“Brian Woodruff has written a beautiful piece here that seems like it could have been written in an earlier lifetime…It’s an emotional moment, one that’s repeated with even more intensity at the end when it’s the horns that are left alone to make the final statement. Somehow, ‘beautiful’ doesn’t quite describe it.” (on Chorale, from The Tarrier)

-Mark Saleski – jazz.com