At First Glance
'At First Glance' is a CD of eight original jazz compositions. All of the artists are native to the Hampton Roads, Virginia area, where they have been performing individually and together for more than two decades. The idea was, as saxophonist Jeff Smith puts it, 'a chance for four friends to get together and record some of their music.' Smith and guitarist Woody Beckner organized the project, and it has a unique, fresh and modern sound, with nods to tradition. Each artist contributed at least one composition to the recording. The pieces range from latin, be-bop, straight-ahead, modern ballad and fatback. Jeff Smith's 'Mellow Out' is based on changes to Duke Ellington's 'In a Mellow Tone,' and was inspired by a spat between two friends. 'Changes Within a Change' by drummer, percussionist Howard Curtis is a latin piece and showcases his virtuoso performance for which he has earned a national and international reputation. Guitarist Woody Beckner describes his composition 'Just Wiggle It' as an uptempo swinging tune with an memorable drum solo by Howard Curtis. The title says Beckner is not '...about booty. It's about a loose tooth.' 'Bart Street' by Smith is a modern jazz waltz and takes it's name from Smith's own street. Bassist Chris Brydge wrote the modern (straight-eighth feel)tune, 'Helene's Song' as a tribute to his grandmother. Beckner's title track 'At First Glance' is a modern ballad (It's about booty.) His piece 'Sunday George,' inspired by a long-time and inspirational friend, has a Sixties, Herbie Hancock, Bluenote, fatback feel. The final track of the CD, Smith's 'Scenic Route,' is an uptempo modern tune that changes back and forth from latin to swing. The CD project is unique in that it's roots are local from the musicians themselves, to the artists who provided the graphics, Jackie Merritt, the photographer, Kathy Keeney, and cover artist Kennety Kirby. Each of the contributing musicians is also a music educator. Beckner, Smith and Brydge each taught at the Virginia Governor's School for the Arts, and Woody Beckner and Howard Curtis are presently on the Jazz Artists Faculty at the College of William and Mary. Curtis also teaches jazz percussion and drums at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond. Each of the musicians has performed with some of jazz's luminaries such as Steve Wilson, Billy Drummond, Jon Fedchock, John D'Earth, John Abercrombie, Gary Thomas,and Bob Mintzer.