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January/February 2006

Woody Witt Quintet
Square Peg, Round Hole
Apria

In the fine, straightahead Square Peg, Round Hole, Houston-based saxophonist Woody Witt demonstrates a virtuosic, well-rounded tenor conception that embraces not only the familiar Michael Brecker-like approach to the Coltrane heritage but also the bluesy soulfulness of the great Texas tenor stylists. Indeed, in spots, such as his partly modal "Matching Game," trumpeter Randy Brecker, Witt's frontline partner, must have been reminded of his collaborations with his famous tenorist brother. But on his own loose-limbed and funky "Dirty Dogs," Witt gets down and dirty with effective gutbucket earthiness.

Except for the one Brecker contribution, the sophisticated compositions are all Witt's and include, along with several swingers, tunes like the slow, melancholy "Much More to Say," the ruminative "Take Her Sweet Time," and the jaunty, medium tempo "Song Without Words." The exemplary rhythm section includes big-toned bassist Johannes Weidenmueller, pianist David Kikoski, whose own solos are consistently inventive, and Witt's former North Texas classmate, drummer Ari Hoenig, who not only accompanies but actually partners with the soloists, picking up their rhythmic figures and weaving his own complementary ones into the total fabric.

Originally published in January/February 2006
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