Jazz trio coming to Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
When Washington, D.C.-based jazz artist Charles Rahmat Woods booked the gig for his group, the Rahmat Shabazz Jazz Trio to play at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, he was eager to share his music at an artistic venue in Western Maryland.
When he looked online at the current exhibits at the museum he was inspired, particularly by The Blues and the Abstract Truth: Voices of African American Art, an exhibition running through Sunday, Jan. 12, that features works created by African-American artists from 1929 to the present including Elizabeth Catlett, Sam Gilliam, Alma Thomas and Willie Cole.
“I read a preview of the exhibit and it includes so many greats — Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence,” Woods said. “I’ve designed a repertoire to complement this exhibit because that’s what I was inspired to do. I said, ‘I want to add a little complement to that from a musical standpoint.’”
The Rahmat Shabazz Jazz Trio will perform at the museum on Sunday, Jan. 5, at 2:30 p.m. The trio is comprised of Woods on flutes and saxophone, Emory Diggs on acoustic bass and Peter Frassrand on piano. Tickets are free for WCMFA members and $10 for the general public.
Woods grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., and graduated from Syracuse University, where he studied psychology and applied music.
“I’ve always looked at music as being a positive social effect on not only myself but on people in general, so I’ve always pursued it like that, you know?” he said.
He lived in New York as a young jazz musician and played with a group called Tarika Blue.
“It was a progressive group along the lines of Miles Davis and Weather Report,” Woods said. “I moved to (the Washington, D.C. area) back in the ‘70s and I’ve been here ever since.”
He specializes in jazz and salsa and incorporates other genres. Over the years, he has recorded more than 10 albums.
“I play a mix of, I believe, 360 degrees of music,” Woods said. “We pull from traditional and contemporary aspects of that genre called jazz, which I believe is one of America’s unique gifts to the world. We continue to evolve that.”
Woods immediately recognized the name of the WCMFA exhibit, The Blues and the Abstract Truth, also as the title of composer and jazz saxophonist Oliver Nelson’s acclaimed 1961 album.
“‘Blues and the Abstract Truth’ is a classic jazz album. It featured Roy Haynes and other great musicians” Woods said. “We play a lot of different venues and I always pull from my originals as well as from jazz classics. Hopefully I can come up with a repertoire that will add a fresh voice to the program.”
The Blues and the Abstract Truth exhibit opened in June. With its closing scheduled to happen in early January, Woods hopes to help cap it off on a strong note. In the concert, he plans to include songs from the Oliver Nelson album such as the lively number “Butch and Butch.”
“A lot of people do the one called ‘Stolen Moments’ from that album. I wanted to pull some of the lesser performed songs,” he said.
The audience also will be treated to pieces including John Coltrane’s soulful piece “The Promise” as well as the whimsical “Monk’s Dream” by Thelonious Monk. Original pieces by Woods will include “Watebird,” “A Flower for Flo” and “Barack.”
“Waterbird” comes from Woods’ CD, “The Language of the Birds.”
“I always do that one in honor of our Native American heritage. I hope to have my native flute in hand,” Woods said. “A lot of people might not remember but I know that all over Maryland, there is a strong Native American history that is worth artistically acknowledging.”
“A Flower for Flo” is a ballad, while Woods’ song “Choctaw Jane” was written in the New Orleans’ tradition for his grandmother who had “a very strong personality.” He wrote “Barack” in 2008 upon the election of Barack Obama.
“I tell my audiences, regardless of political affiliation — I don’t get into politics — it was such a historical event I felt it was worthy of writing music for,” he said. “And I thought it would go along well with the exhibit in terms of being an African-American-centered exhibit. It certainly fits in that historical outline.”
Woods is a touring artist with the Maryland State Arts Council who relishes the opportunity to share his music.
Jazz is “such a broad spectrum of music,” he said. “It really touches so many people and brings diverse crowds together. You can go to any country in the world, walk into a jazz club and feel comfortable and together on that. People leave their baggage at the door. It’s just a great, universally accepted music for us.”
He hopes the audience who hears the Rahmat Shabazz Jazz Trio play at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts will have a sense of that.
“The museum has a reputation for giving great afternoon concerts. We certainly want people to go away with the enjoyment aspect,” Woods said. “But also, music can be inspirational and we want people to be inspired to embrace the humanity of our music.”
Top photo: Charles Rahmat Woods will lead his jazz trio into the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts on Jan. 5. (Submitted photo)