This is one of those names that should be uttered only in hushed tones. Not only was he taught by the peerless guitar picker the Rev Gary Davis, but Mann has played with Son House, Bukka White and John Fahey and has studied jazz under the great Lennie Tristano. In between giving lessons to Paul Simon and accompanying Dori Previn, he has also manged to cut some dazzling music, both by himself and in collaboration with performers such as Jo-Ann Kelly and bluesman John Cehpas. Don’t miss a chance to see him; you are unlikely to hear anything- or anyone – better in the fields that Mann has chosen to master.” – The London Times.
“ With impeccable tone, gutsy phrasing, beautiful harmonies, and cool dynamics, Mann is in a class by himself. Phenomenal.” “Stairwell Serenade” CD Voted top ten “Guitar recordings of Destiny” –Guitar Player Magazine
“Connecting folk and blues, Woody Mann fingerpicks his acoustic guitar with complete assurance on a dozen songs that collectively take your breath away.” –Down Beat Magazine * * * *
.”..Dazzling and technically flawless finger style guitar at its most listenable. Mann’s wizardry on the fret board is matched by his ability to convey deep feelings with his songs- creating moods that incite, delight, or simply soothe.” “Throughout (the recording), Mann blurs the lines between jazz, blues, classical, and world music creating his own sound in the process. Attempts to categorize his music simply misses the point. This is brilliant playing that demands to be heard.” –Sing Out Magazine
“Mann is simply Spellbinding.” –Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine
“…This excellent instrumental set from one of the most talented and eclectic finger style guitarists on the scene can be heard, more metaphorically, as a recap of his musical journey. 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
“ Mann’s concert was a mix of brilliance and intensity- moving and inspiring.
His music is a blend of so many styles, it becomes something different, something his own….Sweden National Times
“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. Woody Mann’s performance is inspired from start to finish.”-Acoustic Musician Magazine
“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 C.D. would belong there. – John Fahey , from the liner notes to the C.D “Stories”
“…He nails very complicated stuff so cleanly that optimists will grab their guitars, thinking, “Hey, that’s humanly possible,” while pessimists will get drunk and spread dark rumors about moral turpitude. – Musician Magazine
” A brilliant convergence of guitar and song…completely original.”- Village Voice, New York
“Having studies., literally, at the feet of the Rev. Gary Davis and other blues ‘greats’, Woody has taken the traditional blues feeling and evolved it into his own highly personal, energized approach while practicing his teachers gift for telling powerful stories in the song form, as exemplified by his just issued Shanachie CD “Heading Uptown” –Boston Globe
“There are no rambling New Age guitar noodlings here: these tunes have vibrancy and life…an enormously talented and accomplished guitarist.” “Woody’s vocals are better than ever. Its always a pleasure to witness an artist who just keeps getting better. This (“Heading Uptown”CD) has to be Woody Mann’s best album yet. Positively inspiring.” –Folk Roots Magazine
“…Mann is a masterful player with a distinctly contemporary perspective in his songs.” – Acoustic Guitar Magazine
“He has certainly learned from the older players but he is giving back and pushing the boundaries even further…an exceptionally gifted musician.” – Blues and Rhythm Magazine
‘”In last nights concert he held a large audience spellbound for nearly two hours with a mixture of blues and jazz in addition to his original material.” – Manchester Guardian, UK
“The self effacing Woody Mann charmed his audience with a set that defies pigeon-holing even into a genre as wide as blues: his brilliant technique merges his jazz and classical ideas into something truly his own. The guitarists in the audience may have been inspired -or, more likely, made to feel like taking up another instrument altogether.” –Jersey Evening Post, UK
“Mann’s mastery of finger-style guitar is astonishing, and in person the precision of his playing is even more amazing than on his CD’s. His fingers are up and down the fingerboard, with every note of every chord loud and clear. The performance was at times introspective and at times exuberant, and the appreciative, knowledgeable audience responded loudly after each piece, leaving no doubt that Woody Mann puts on a great show.” –Concert review Blues Review Magazine
“Mann is a gifted musician.” – Living Blues Magazine
The show features an acoustic session and conversation with Woody ahead of his UK appearances at the Great British Guitar Festival in The Wirral and the Ullapool Guitar Festival. Woody also discusses his documentary film project ‘Harlem Street Singer’ and the story of The Reverend Gary Davis.
Folk festival scores top US roots Mann
Guitar virtuoso Woody Mann will perform his own work on his first visit to Australia, but also pay homage to the guitar greats.
When a highly skilled musician dedicates a career to promoting the work of the greats who went before him, the lines between entertainer, historian and tutor can become blurred.
Music store shelves around the globe are overflowing with DVD tutorials promising to teach guitar in the styles of long-gone blues artists. And any number of online lessons can be downloaded at the press of a button.
But there are lessons and then there are lessons.
That’s because there are the real teachers and then there are the wannabes.
What puts American guitar virtuoso Woody Mann so far ahead of the rest is that his lessons are grounded not just in a deep understanding of early blues music, but also in his own superior musicality.
A true pioneer in the craft, Mann transcribed the complete works of Delta blues legend Robert Johnson. Across more than four decades he has produced books and videos, teaching not only songs belonging to that mysterious bluesman who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for improved musicianship (Johnson was murdered aged 27 – some deal), but also in the styles of Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson, Blind Blake and many more.
It’s ragtime, it’s fingerpicking, it’s slide and it’s contagious blues riffs. Mann has mastered them all and has expertly passed his knowledge on to eager guitarists the world over. He also presents live clinics, workshops and master classes.
Yet what can be forgotten amid all this generosity of knowledge-sharing is that Mann is himself a world-class entertainer and a stunningly mesmerising performer.
Classically trained and as masterful in jazz guitar as he is in the blues, Mann is somewhat of an enigma.
And he is making his first trip Down Under to appear exclusively at the National Folk Festival in Canberra during the Easter long weekend in April.
From his home in New York City, where it was snowing at the time, Mann said he was keen to get to Australia and feel the warmth not just of the climate, but also of the people.
He confessed to also feeling a little embarrassed that it has taken him so long to get here.
“Yes, this is my very first visit to Australia,” he laughed.
“We never quite made it happen before now. I am fully aware that in Australia there is a great appreciation of the kind of music that I play and of old traditional blues songs.
“I think the National Folk Festival will be the perfect place for me to share it for the first time down there.”
The festival will also present a prime opportunity for Mann to launch his latest work – a full-length documentary feature about the life, times and music of the Reverend Gary Davis.
Titled Harlem Street Singer, the film explores the story of the blind blues and gospel singer who taught so many of today’s professional musicians to play the guitar how God intended it to be played.
“The movie will premiere in Australia, at the festival,” Mann said. “This is a story I have always wanted to tell. The Reverend Gary Davis is a musical icon now – we know Gary Davis. He was this old blind guy.
“But really there isn’t a lot known about him. We are now very proud of him, but his full story hasn’t been told.”
Mann, like so many others who were captivated by the American blues revival in the 1960s, sought out Davis and sat at his feet to be tutored.
He wanted to play the blues just like the old blind guy who spent a life performing on street corners and in juke joints.
By the time Mann met Davis, the blind singer was in the very twilight of his life and had “officially” stopped playing the blues (“the devil’s music”), choosing to instead concentrate solely on preaching and playing spirituals on his guitar.
But when Mrs Davis wasn’t in earshot, the cheeky reverend still let loose with some raunchy blues and showed his pupils how to play them.
“With me, it was really by accident. I was looking for a guitar teacher and I had heard his name,” Mann said.
“Some guys were saying he was really good. So I just looked him up in the phone book and his wife answered and said ‘come on over’. I went over and heard him play a little. When I heard his ragtime stuff it just blew my mind.
”I said to myself ‘I gotta learn that’ and in that sense it was a real lucky accident.”
The feature film is outstanding and something of which Mann is rightly proud. But it wasn’t a simple project,
“The DVD was six years in the making,” he said. “There is new footage we had to go through and bring all together. Making a movie is not easy. It’s my first full-length film.”
Which brings us back to the question of where the musician stops and the tutor-historian takes over.
For Mann, it’s a simple question and not in the least a conflicting position.
“I think one stems from the other,” he said.
“My roots stem from country blues, then my studies got me into classical and jazz, I played in groups.
“But even now when I write songs I see the roots in Blind Lemon Jefferson. I definitely see the genesis in the old blues players.
“You want to add your two cents’ worth to these old tunes. Why play exactly like Gary Davis? That’s what he taught me.
“Robert Johnson didn’t play everything the same way twice.”
Mann’s original songs are also refreshing, he being an avid writer of original music.
Yet when it all comes down to it, he loves to improvise and let a tune take him into uncharted territory.
Singing behind the guitar while his fingers are traversing the fret board in what might seem another direction is a challenge he particularly enjoys.
His prowess has not gone unnoticed. Reviews of Mann’s concerts gush over his ability to captivate his audience.
Guitar Player magazine: “With impeccable tone, gutsy phrasing, beautiful harmonies, and cool dynamics, Mann is in a class by himself. Phenomenal.”
Sing Out! magazine: “His wizardry on the fret board is matched by his ability to convey deep feelings with his songs – creating moods that incite, delight, or simply soothe. Attempts to categorise his music simply miss the point. This is brilliant playing that demands to be heard.”
Musician magazine: “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.”
The Boston Globe: “Having studied, literally, at the feet of the Rev. Gary Davis and other blues greats, Woody has taken the music and evolved it into his own highly personal, energised approach while practicing his teacher’s gift for telling powerful stories in the song form.”
For Mann, it is simply all about the joy of playing the guitar, sharing great music and not even attempting to fit it into any one box.
“I think I’ve played more of a variety of music,” he said.
“I studied classical, studied jazz and then went across genres. Record companies couldn’t pigeonhole me.
“I’m modern, roots, blues, jazzy. I think of everything I play as coming out of the roots, blues and jazz traditions.
“To me, carrying on the tradition is really trying to be original. You can play your own music and still be connected to Charlie Patton.
“It’s really hard for me to categorise myself. I do my own version of a Blind Blake song.
“The trick is trying to keep it rootsy. I pull together all these different aspects.
“That’s my journey.”