The Woody Russell Trio has been one of THE most talked about, appreciated and requested back groups we have had the pleasure to host on our stage. We are so pleased to be able to present him again at the ACMA.
Critically acclaimed, award winning, vocalist, guitarist and composer, Woody Russell, blurs the lines between Jazz, R&B and Folk. It’s a sophisticated musical niche that a handful of artists have occupied where Jazz and Singer-Songwriter crossover (think Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Gregory Porter, Lizz Wright, Al Jarreau, etc.). One could certainly reference the origins of the classic American Songbook for such composers, but Russell’s take is decidedly more contemporary.
Growing up in a small college town in Montana, Woody Russell was surrounded by the natural beauty of Big Sky country. What he was not surrounded by was a culture of the arts, of jazz, and certainly not a live music scene of any sort. Nonetheless, music was a deeply fundamental part of his childhood experience by way of a modest but diverse collection of albums, FM radio and a family’s appreciation for music.
“I was, I still am, fascinated by music and musicians,” states Woody. “It was present in every corner of my life, both the internal, as well as, the beautiful outdoor world that I grew up exploring. It held such a grip on my imagination. If I wasn’t actively listening to something, I was singing, finding my way around the guitar or creating recordings on my desktop cassette recorder. I cherished that little machine.”
Decades later, Russell has released a body of recorded work that spans from the early acoustic Folk infused songwriter fare of his first album, …As Simple As That (1996) to the highly praised Blues/Soul release of Up Against It (2010) and the stunning instrumental/orchestral collection, Big Sky (2012). The following year he offered the Pop-Jazz shades of Delicious Days (2013). Russell’s most recent full length album, Carry It Up (2016), further explores his amalgam of Jazz-meets-R&B and Soul, offering an uplifting, thought provoking listen replete with intimate narratives. It’s occasionally romantic, often reflective, even sentimental, but balanced by his examination of a broader social consciousness on several tracks. The album focuses on themes of love, compassion, tolerance, respect and the quest for all of the aforementioned. An acoustic cover – Russell’s first – of Marvin Gaye’s chestnut, “What’s Going On”, features the tenor sax of Chi-town transplant, Dez Desormeaux, and is right at home amid the rest of this original work. The end result with Carry It Up is a lush recording that is positively brimming with superb song-craft created by a master tunesmith leading a world class band. Excellent soloists and ensemble interplay are on display throughout. But, what elevates the game, yet again, is Russell’s very fine delivery as a vocalist: equal parts crooner and soul-shouter. There can be no doubt that he possesses a mastery of his vocal instrument which conveys an emotional sincerity with each phrase, each lyrical turn. He navigates the sound of his words with a rhythmic precision and melodic expression akin to jazz improvisation. Comparisons to Al Jarreau, Kurt Elling and flourishes of Van Morrison abound. Then there’s his guitar playing, which Blues Revue likened to “the fearlessness of Jeff Beck”.
Woody Russell is the recipient of the 2013 Bugle Boy Foundation’s Talent Trust Award following Grammy nominee John Fullbright (2012). He is an officially recognized artist of the Texas Commission on the Arts Texas Touring Roster. Texas Touring Roster artists have been “deemed the best in their field by a panel of statewide experts.” Woody takes to the road throughout Texas frequently, as well as select dates in the U.S. and Canada. His live performances, whether solo, with his touring Trio (WR3) or with his full quintet/sextet, have been described as “transcendent” by KDRP radio personality, David Arnberger; engaging audiences through a sincere and “in the moment” connection to his music. Russell was a prominently featured artist on Season One of the CW Network’s, “Troubadour, TX”; airing weekly in over 20 million households nationwide from Sept. 2011 through Sept. 2012. He also toured as one of four artists in support of the program.