Widely considered as one of the top acoustic guitarists in the world, masterful Woody Mann is a New York based musician and renowned teacher with deep roots in the blues. He has excellent credentials and has learned directly from the Rev. Gary Davis, played with Son House, Bukka White and John Fahey. Then, he ascended to ranks of the most celebrated and accomplished guitarists, regularly performing at the acoustic International Guitar Festival, an event that brings together the world’s finest players, kind of like the Mensa of the guitar. Along with Ed Gerhard, Bob Brozman, and a handful of others, he represents the blues well among the small circle of the “virtuosos virtuosos.”
By no means singularly a blues player, he has one foot in the jazz realm. When he does play the blues, his repertoire is wide-ranging and unlimited. Be it Ragtime, Piedmont, fingerpicking, slide, laptop, whatever he touches is amazing and delightful.
All the fancy technique, but can he play the blues with feeling? Resoundingly, yes! Of course, his performances are usually more jazz oriented, but when he wants to, play the blues, he is one of today’s best.
"Mann has absorbed so many guitar styles that he can change moods on a dime, weaving lyrical single string lines and chord harmonies that can take his tunes across the musical divides between genres." – Acoustic Guitar Magazine
Among guitarists and critics, Woody Mann is considered a modern master. While the blues are his touchstone, he seems to draw inspiration from every direction, blending a myriad of influences with ease and grace. Pioneering guitar legend John Fahey said it well: “You can hear classical, jazz and blues approaches somehow converging into a single sparkling sound – a sound completely his own. Woody takes a fresh approach to his blues re-creations and his own compositions defy category. If there was a category simply called ‘great music’ Woody’s music would belong there. In 'Songs From the Blues', Woody showcases his songs that are inspired by his love for the country blues and early jazz styles but brings the past up to the present with his original gui-tar style and contemporary songwriting. Mann’s wizardry on the fretboard is matched by his ability to convey deep feelings with his songs – creating moods that incite, delight, or simply soothe. Mann blurs the lines between jazz, blues, classical, and world mu-sic, creating his own sound in the process. Attempts to categorize his music simply miss the point. This is brilliant playing that demands to be heard." – Sing Out!
Woody took his first musical schooling as a teenager in the living room of Reverend Gary Davis, the legendary blues, gospel and ragtime guitarist. He soon went on to perform and record with blues masters Son House and Bukka White, British great Jo Anne Kelly and fingerstyle innovator John Fahey while studying classical music at the Juilliard School and jazz improvisation with the legend-ary pianist Lennie Tristano. Since those early years, he has toured throughout the world, recorded extensively, performed with blues and jazz legends, conducted workshops in a dozen countries, and schooled countless guitarists through his many books and DVDs. He has become one of the world’s renowned guitar masters with his own contemporary improvisational style.
"Every now and then, you hear a guitarist whose sound is completely his own and whose music flirts with several styles, never resting for very long with just one. Woody Mann is an artist who seems to have internalized many different genres and combined them in a way that is more than the sum of its parts. What is remarkable is how he can draw from several styles and techniques within a single song and have them blend without the feeling of inconsistency. – Musician Magazine
Titles include: We’ll Be Alright, Little Brother, Cheap Cherry Wine, Snooks, Harlequin, Have Mercy, Delia, Early Hesitation Blues, Try Me One More Time, On Her Way Home, Great Dreams, God Works in Mysterious Ways and A Little Love And Kiss
Running time: 98 minutes
Review: The Guitar Artistry Of Woody Mann is a great portrait of a superlative musician and performer, composer, arranger, producer, filmmaker, author and teacher. It's the latest release from a fascinating series in which the musicians talk about their life and times and perform their material.
It is difficult to categorize Mann's wide-ranging musical style but the blues have played an important role, and over the years he has performed with many of the older legends such as Son House and Bukka White, as well as with some of the most creative musicians of his own generation, including Jo Ann Kelly, John Renbourn and John Fahey. He speaks with enthusiasm of many of the blues musicians who have inspired his playing, including Skip James, Blind Blake, Lonnie Johnson, Eddie Lang and, of course, the guitar master Rev. Gary Davis. Mann first took lessons from Davis when he was just a young teenager, and it is intriguing to hear his anecdotes of his times with the great man. Davis encouraged Mann to be himself and talked of the importance of spontaneity and improvisation in his music. Later Mann studied with the great jazz pianist, composer and arranger Lennie Tristano, who proved to be a strict yet encouraging teacher who, like Davis, emphasized the importance of improvisation.
Throughout this relaxed and enjoyable DVD, Mann stresses how important an improvisational approach has been to his music and how much he enjoys interpreting other's material to suit his own style without losing the feel and respect of the original, His Early Hesitation Blues is a perfect example of this approach, as he takes Blind Blake's Early Morning Blues and Rev. Gary Davis's Hesitation Blues and makes them into a complex guitar instrumental that is very much his own. Other examples include interpretations of titles from Eddie Lang, Joseph Spence, and Blind Lemon Jefferson - all performed with amazing guitar skills.
Mann is a creative songwriter, and there are a number of excellent titles on this disc. Two highlights are his tributes to Little Brother Montgomery on Little Brother and to Snooks Eaglin on Snooks. Mann also collaborated on the lyrics with the blues author and journalist Steve Calt. The vocals throughout are natural and engaging, especially on Rev. Davis's Delia and on Marshall Owens's Try Me One More Time.
Mann has consummate guitar skills and a thorough knowledge of a wide range of musical styles and techniques, but what comes over most of all is his genuine love for what he performs. He makes it all look effortless. – Living Blues / Bob Tilling