Curtis Woodbury is a 23-year-old remarkable talent who is equally proficient on both the violin and the tenor saxophone. This album focuses primarily on his prodigious abilities on the violin, although he does play tenor on a couple of the tracks (You Are My Sunshine andHinjew). Even a quick listen will at once reveal his uniqueness as a jazz violinist. Perhaps it is because his tenor playing has informed his articulation and phrasing on the violin, but Curtis does not sound like any other jazz violinist either past or current. When Curtis was recording this album, I was in the booth with Monte Belknap, a great violinist; and over and over Monte would exclaim, “That’s amazing! I just don’t hear other people out there doing that kind of stuff.” I think as you listen, you will be compelled to agree. This album is a real ride!
The album begins with Sonny Stitt’s great rhythm-based tune, Eternal Triangle. This is a great vehicle for Curtis’ bebop violin. Sweet Dreamsis Curtis’ own tune and provides plenty of blowing space for both Curtis and amazing pianist, Justin Nielsen. The changes may sound familiar. Shifting Sands was made famous originally by bassist, Dave Holland, and gives Curtis’ brother, Brian, a chance to make a nice contribution on trombone. The great Argentine composer, Astor Piazzolla, contributes the next tune, Laura’s Dream. It is an exquisite setting for the very sensitive side of Curtis’ violin, and Justin compliments him well at the piano. Caribe is the brainchild of Michel Camilo, pianist and composer extraordinaire from the Dominican Republic. This is truly tour de force for the whole band with fine moments for everyone, and Curtis really shines with his phenomenal technique and double stops to die for. Maple Leaf Rag is theme and improvised variations for Curtis with bassist, Matt Larson—a load of fun. The popular You Are My Sunshineis one of two official state songs for Louisiana and was actually composed by a former Louisiana governor. Curtis gets down on both saxophone and violin on this track, and Justin plays an amazingly soulful piano solo reminiscent of the late, great Gene Harris. The album ends with another of Curtis’ own compositions, Hinjew, composed for the Park City Jazz Festival while Curtis was still a high school student. The reason for such a title will be apparent when you listen. It again features Curtis on both violin and tenor saxophone.
I’m sure you will feel as I do that the future is bright for young Curtis Woodbury. Bravo on a wonderful debut album!
– Ray Smith