School days

By JON GARELICK  |  June 17, 2008

The interest in shifting tonal centers comes from Ornette Coleman, just as the tensile strength of Woodard’s lines comes from Sonny Rollins’s technique of motivic development. Even the 10-minute trio piece “Surfin’ ” never goes slack.

Woodard is playing the Lily Pad in preparation for a new recording session in August, an album whose title, Urban Garden, refers not only to the gardening he likes to do at his family’s home in Dorchester but also to his teaching work at the Roland Hayes School of Music in Roxbury. He anticipates a few originals, some offbeat covers, and a spiritual or two, in the manner of Green’s Feeling the Spirit (Blue Note). There will probably also be a number that combines hip-hop and swing, in the manner of 1715’s “Stretching/Rebirth of Slick (Cool like Dat).” That piece reunited a Digable Planets track with the James Williams piece it sampled. The title track of the new album “takes an R&B groove and puts jazz changes on it — to show that the two can work together and not come off sounding like smooth jazz.”

Looking back on his post-Berklee studies, Woodard says, “You can learn from playing other styles of music, where you have to be disciplined and give that style of music what it needs.”

 “You happy with the Celtics?” asked one of only a handful of listeners as the band set up at the Lily Pad a week ago Wednesday night — the night after the 87-81 Game #3 loss to the Lakers. He was talking to drummer Bob Kaufman, who was wearing a Celtics trucker’s cap and tightening the top bolt on a cymbal. “Who wouldn’t be?” shrugged Kaufman, smiling.

“Me,” said the listener. “I lost a lot of money.”

“Last night?”

“All three games.”

“You bet against them?”

“No.”

“You lose on the spread?”

“Celtics made the spread in those games.”

Well, we never did find out how a guy who didn’t bet against the Celtics lost money on all three games.

The Lily Pad is often a home to the homeless of Boston’s too-large community of jazz musicians, and on this night and every Wednesday night since the lunar eclipse in February, as bassist Bruce Gertz explained, it’s been the home of an aggregation calling themselves KGBG: Kaufman/Gertz/Bergonzi/Guerrero.

Except that tonight it’s not. Sax legend Jerry Bergonzi is off on tour — in Armenia, Gertz thinks — and pianist Gabriel Guerrero said he was going to be too tired from a full day of teaching. So it’s a trio: Kaufman, Gertz, and guitarist Tim Miller. The Kaufman/Gertz/Bergonzi core of the band held down a Wednesday-night gig for several years at the Acton Jazz Café. But the restaurant/club, beset by financial woes, closed down for a while back in January, and though it’s reopened, it has not resumed Wednesday-night music. So the KGBG crew found the Lily Pad.

“ . . . the last A section in E minor, then back to C minor.” Gertz is going over his arrangement of the Oscar Hammerstein/Sigmund Romberg standard “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise” with Miller. He looks up at the audience. “Got that? There’ll be a quiz!”

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