Rich Woodson's Ellipsis

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Early to mid-2000s quintet that eschewed improvisation to navigate the thorough scoring of its leader's complex, convoluted charts.
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Influenced by the likes of Tim Berne, Frank Zappa, and contemporary classical composer Charles Wuorinen, Brooklyn-based guitarist Rich Woodson traded his interest in hard rock and speed metal for a blend of creative jazz, avant metal, and contemporary chamber music textures in his Ellipsis quintet. Featuring Woodson along with drummer John Hollenbeck (Claudia Quintet), soprano saxophonist Peter Epstein, tenor saxophonist Aaron Stewart, and acoustic bassist Mat Fieldes, the group's recorded debut, Control and Resistance, arrived on the Cuneiform label in 2000. Across nine tracks and a total of 43 minutes, the ensemble maintained a herky-jerky momentum performing composer Woodson's head-spinningly brief and knotty multi-layered motifs in constantly permuting convolutions. The group's sophomore album, 2005's independently released The Nail That Stands Up Gets Pounded Down, featured Woodson again joined by Hollenbeck, Stewart, and Fieldes, but with clarinetist Anthony Burr replacing saxophonist Epstein. The Nail That Stands Up continued the conceptual thread of Control and Resistance, packing more of Woodson's ever-changing dense compositional textures into the album's 40-minute length. Although no further Ellipsis albums would be released, Woodson and company left fans of complex avant and experimental music with enough sonic material to warrant repeated listens for years to come.