Friday, July 9, 2010


Tenor saxophonist Steve WoodsThat's face it Steve, you and saxophonist Carl Cafagna respect each other way too much to battle. You called your show last night at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe as a tenor sax showdown. That was a little misleading. With all due respect, the concert was more of a love-fest, which was fine with me. You feel indebted to great tenor saxophonists such as Wardell Gray, Dexter Gordon, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnnie Griffin. That explains why you boasted about their skills and the legendary tenor sax battles they participated in. I liked you kept your performance with Cafagna, a member of the popular gypsy jazz band the Hot Club of Detroit and a noted bandleader in his own right, kosher.

Both of you are classy jazz musicians. Not once did you all attempt to upstage the other although the opportunities were there, especially when you traded measures with Cafagna on "The Last Train from Overbrook" and "Strollin'". The exchanged between Cafagna and drummer Sean Dobbins was like a nagging old married couple. Sometimes Dobbins plays as if he’s having a temper tantrum, and he's prone to showboating at times, but last night he was the perfect sideman, keeping his ego at bay.

Two things bothered me that I have to mention. First, was the table of women chatting during the performance . Obviously, they showed up to drink and socialized. They refused to let the great music the band played interfere with their chit-chat. The nice couple from San Francisco, seated next to me at the bar thought the women were disrespectful. I told them talking at jazz clubs is commonplace, and club owners need to crack down.

Anyway, the coupled loved the band, and they're coming back Saturday night. The other thing that bothered me was Cafagna long-winded introductions. Cafagna is sort of a raconteur. Sometimes, the stories he tells are uninteresting. Unfortunately, an audience has to endure his rambling. However, when he settles down, his blowing is gorgeous, particularly on medium tempo material.

Your solo on the Billy Strayhorn classic "Chelsea Bridge," was the highlight of the evening. Most great tenor sax player past and present are balladeers at heart. Dexter Gordon and Ike Quebec immediately come to mind. You know how to work a ballad. The couple sitting under the framed photo of John Coltrane cuddled during your solo. The pretty notes you played were touching. The cafe was packed, which is unusual for a Thursday night. Steve, I anticipated the place would be crowded, so I arrived early. You've built a loyal fan base. Teaming up with Cafagna gives your fans more of a reason to support you.
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