Critically acclaimed, award winning, Contemporary Jazz vocalist, guitarist and composer, Woody Russell, melds Jazz, R&B and Folk in to his sophisticated, genre-blurring sound. He has released a body of recorded work that spans from the 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 Pop-Jazz shades of Delicious Days (2013). Russell’s latest 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”.