Griffin Woodard, Completion Review
by Nolan DeBuke
Griffin Woodard is a composer and bass clarinetist that is releasing a powerful debut album, Completion. Woodard chooses to present ten original compositions and one arrangement, chronicling his experiences and lessons in love, isolation, connection, and spirituality. Woodard explains, “The Completion album has nothing to do with endings. The word completion means to me, spiritual wholeness.” The Griffin Woodard Group features vocalist Georgia Heers, vocalist Deneen Jones, saxophonist Coleman Rose, pianist Abe Gold, bassist Miles Gilbert, and drummer Hugh Kline.
“Little Angel” is a Woodard original that serves as the introduction to the album and his playing to the jazz listener. Instantly you will notice his warm tone on the bass clarinet and his elegant, expressive style that communicates his passion for playing. Heers’ vocals sing the melody with a beautiful swinging style and easy-to-understand diction. The composition has multiple layers and is very orchestrated for a small jazz ensemble, showing Woodard’s acute musical elegance. Gold performs a catchy solo that feels relaxed and in the pocket. Woodard’s bass clarinet solo also swings naturally, and his expression is articulate and emotive.
The one arrangement on the album is Loys Bourgeois; “Doxology.” A dramatic introduction adds to the excitement of the arrangement. Woodard’s distinctive reharmonizations give this well-known church song new life and interest. For those who would like to hear Woodard cut loss and just blow on a standard set of changes, check out “Route 1.” Woodard has a beautiful tone, musical power, and snappy articulations even at quicker tempos.
Completion is a robust debut album for Griffin Woodard. His playing and compositions are musical, creative, and ring of fresh energy and passion. The ensemble is solid, and the two vocalists give a variation of sonics as both have beautiful voices. Put Woodard on your short list of new players, as you will want to keep up with this massive bass clarinetist trajectory upwards.