Sunday, November 23, 2008


Drummer Leonard King Dear Lyman Woodard,

I left after the first set of your CD release party at Cliff Bells. The club got too noisy. I wondered if the crowd came to hear you play, or just to hangout on a Saturday night. A hairless man nudged me. He said I blocked his wife’s view. If he had touched me twenty years ago, I would have punched him. At 41, I am, more tolerant. I paid the $7.00 cover charge to hear you not to fight. Lyman, after he nudged me he offered to by me a drink, which puzzled me. I refused his offer. Maybe that was his way of apologizing. Then he stuck up a conversation. I indulged him. Lyman I am not writing you to discuss that incident. I just need to get that off my chest first. I could not tell my wife because when I got home, she was asleep.

Lyman the party was different than I expected. I thought you were only supposed to play with drummer Leonard King and guitarist Ron English. I was surprised to see organist Gerard Gibbs, trumpeter Dwight Adams, saxophonist Ju Ju Johnson, trombonist Steve Hunter and percussionist Jerry LeDuff. While they played, you set alone. You smoked and drank.

King was the master of ceremony. The drummer was longwinded, and he spent too much time reminiscing. I almost heckled him. I came to hear Lyman not King's stories about the old days. When the drummer finally stopped, the ensemble played a fine version of your composition “Gospel Soul Shouting”.

I enjoy listening to Gibbs play the organ. It is his natural habitat. Gibbs is on par with such great organists as Joey Defrancesco, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Richard “Groove” Holmes. If that comparison is hard to believe checkout Gibbs two albums “To Be and Not To Hammond B3, Livin’ and Learnin’, and Gibb’s solos on saxophonist James Carter’s live albums “Live at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge” and “Out of Nowhere”.

As a pianist, however, Gibbs reaches way beyond his competence level. I respect his ambition. Gibbs would be a solid pianists if he just played the lines, and stopped trying to emulate pianist DD Jackson and Craig Taborn. The tricks they do on the piano come naturally. They are Jame Carter's equals.

Of course, Gibbs never passes on an opportunity to showoff. I realize showboating is part of his DNA. Saturday night, however, his showboating worked. Gibbs sounded self-assured and polished.

Lyman on, "De’ja' vu," another of your originals, tenor saxophonist Ju Ju Johnson and trumpeter Dwight Adams captured and held the crowd attention. Johnson and Adams are journeymen swingers, indeed. I wondered if Johnson plays regularly around town. I used to see him often at the Wednesday night jam session at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge. Saturday night was the first time I experienced him as part of an ensemble.

In Michigan, Adams is the go to trumpeter. The man has played on most of James Carter's albums, and has toured with Motown great Stevie Wonder. Currently, Adams is unsigned. Signing him, should be some jazz record label New Year resolution. Adams is to self-effacing, but many regard him as a premier trumpeter. Years ago, I talked with the late pianist John Hicks after a set at the Harlequin Cafe'(the jazz club and restaurant is closed). Hicks said he did a session with Adams. Hicks described Adams as a monster on the trumpeter.

Honestly, Lyman your event felt more like a get together. That bothered me. During the first set, why did you only played one song “Satin Doll”? I know you are retired. You live in Owasso, Mi. That's a long way to drive for one tune. I planned to hear both sets, but I figured the second one would be the same so I split.

Having the album release party at Cliff Bells was a mistake. Either Bert's Market Place or Baker's Keyboard Lounge would have been a better choice. Those jazz clubs attract people who actually like jazz. On the surface, Cliff Bells appears to be a wonderful spot to hear jazz. However, the club is a haven for rude "socializers".

At one point, I could barely hear the band. I experienced the same distractions last Saturday when I attended vocalist Joan Belgrave's set. Management should discourage people from yapping while a band or vocalist perform because it is discourteous

Listening to Gibbs, Adams and Johnson were the highlights. They kept the party from being a flop. Overall, the party was okay. I wanted to hear more of you.
Charles L. Latimer
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