William Woods

The Hear and Now

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The brilliant keyboardist/composer's "day job" as a radiation oncologist has created an intense dichotomy of positives and negatives for his musical career. On the happy side, William Woods earmarked half the proceeds of his previous CD, 2005's Every Part of Me, to the American to the American Cancer Society, and half the profits from The Hear and Now to Habitat for Humanity. The negatives for this Smoothie Award winner? Maybe less time to get out and promote his music -- which stacks up smartly against smooth jazz legends David Benoit, Bob James and Brian Culbertson -- and get out and jam. And jam he does on throbbing old-school funk-jazz numbers like "Not Suitable for Children" and the slightly more easygoing "Pangaea," which features some of the disc's jazziest piano runs. "Listen to This" launches the collection with an exquisite Fourplay-esque blend of spirited, high-register piano elegance and bounce. The next track, "Getting' Dirty," doesn't quite live up to its title, being as refined as it is, but it fits right in the pocket as a radio-friendly, silky-bluesy, mid-tempo soul ballad (enhanced by Jeffrey Scott Wills' passionate sax). At the time of this release, Woods' Myspace page listed Bob James and Herbie Hancock as his top "friends." It's easy to see why those legends are fans. On this superior, edgy yet beautiful effort, he's effortlessly carrying the torch that they lit.

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