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
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 TO ORDER
“Mann may be the only guitarist to take lessons from Rev. Gary Davis, study classical music at Julliard, record with Robert Johnson mentor Son House, and receive training in improvisation from jazz pianist Lennie Tristano. If that weren’t enough, he’s certainly the only musician who can add this glowing quote to the above resume; “If there was a category simply called ‘great music,’ Woody’s music would belong there.” The compliment came from guitar legend John Fahey – not a man prone to gushing. But Mann’s knack for effortlessly blending blues, folk, and jazz elements can have that effect on even the most jaded curmudgeon. Mann has released about a dozen albums, either solo or collaborations (with Bob Brozman, Susanne Vogt, and others), but has issued twice as many instructional books and DVDs – on blues in general or specific artists, such as Lonnie Johnson, Blind Blake, and Big Bill Broonzy. This 90-minute DVD is, finally, about the man himself. Interspersed among 13 songs are interview segments in which Mann talks about growing up in New York, where he was fortunate enough to have Josh White perform at his school and go to Davis’ home for lessons (he even remembers the Reverend’s phone number: AX1- 7609), and his musical philosophy. He alternates playing a Monteleone Hot Club maple flat-top with oval soundhole and his Martin MC-18 signature model – mahogany back and sides, with a brighter, almost parlor tone. It’s hard to fault Mann’s impeccable playing; the only criticism would be some of the songs, written by him and/or Stephen Calt – which, like so many homages to bluesmen (in this case, Little Brother Montgomery, Willie Brown, and Snooks Eaglin), get overly romanticized and a bit trite. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine any higher tribute than his jazzinstrumental interpretation of Davis’ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy.” – Dan Forte, Vintage Guitar Magazine
“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