JAZZ REVIEW : Tenor Saxophonist Woodard a Discovery at Comeback Inn

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Currently celebrating the 15th anniversary of his Comeback Inn, owner Will Raabe planned to bring in an old favorite, the saxophonist Rudolph Johnson, as Wednesday’s attraction. Johnson called in sick, but the musician he sent as a replacement, Rickey Woodard, was a more than adequate substitute; in fact, he turned out to be a serendipitous discovery.

Like Johnson, Woodard works regularly as a member of the Ray Charles orchestra. Leading a quartet, however, he was afforded an opportunity to display an improvisational personality that could hardly have surfaced so effectively under big band conditions.

A tenor soloist of the post-John Coltrane generation, Woodard reflected the hard-driving sound and style of the early Trane, with a touch of Johnny Griffin’s “tough tenor” approach here and there.


As if to emphasize the former resemblance, much of the material consisted of tunes that Coltrane either wrote or performed: “Blue Trane,” “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise,” Joe Henderson’s “Recorda Me” and the Monk blues “Straight No Chaser.” His full-blooded blowing was supported by an admirable and stylistically versatile pianist, Bill Henderson, whose modal moments evoked memories of the early McCoy Tyner.

The bassist, Jeff Littleton, is yet another example of the profusion of contemporary masters of the upright bass. Completing the group was Peter Hillman, who contributed empathetically to the group feeling.