Lompoc, California-born guitarist/composer Rich Woodson lived in various locales around the U.S. -- including the San Francisco Bay Area; Nashville, Tennessee; and San Antonio and Austin, Texas -- before becoming a resident of that East Coast magnet for creative types, Brooklyn, New York, in the early '90s. He brought with him a musical outlook refined elsewhere, however: namely a public library in Austin, where the former hard rock and speed metal-influenced guitarist had acquainted himself with avant-garde jazz and 20th century classical music. The burgeoning self-taught composer translated his newfound interest into action, writing densely structured music influenced by the likes of Tim Berne, Frank Zappa, and Pulitzer Prize-winning contemporary classical composer Charles Wuorinen. He then assembled a group -- Rich Woodson's Ellipsis -- that could actually translate his complex scores into musical reality, drawing from some of the most accomplished musicians on the New York avant jazz scene: drummer John Hollenbeck (Claudia Quintet), soprano saxophonist Peter Epstein, tenor saxophonist Aaron Stewart, and acoustic bassist Mat Fieldes.
The ensemble's recorded debut, Control and Resistance, arrived on the Cuneiform label in 2000, and featured head-spinningly brief and knotty multi-layered motifs in constantly permuting convolutions, maintaining a herky-jerky momentum in a musical territory where creative jazz, avant metal, and contemporary chamber music intersect. It took another five years for Rich Woodson's Ellipsis to issue a 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. With a back cover proudly asserting "THERE IS NO IMPROVISATION ON THIS RECORDING," The Nail That Stands Up continued the conceptual thread of Control and Resistance, packing a second helping of ever-changing dense compositional textures into a total of 40 minutes (three fewer minutes than its predecessor). While no further Rich Woodson's Ellipsis albums would be forthcoming in subsequent years, the quantity of sonic material packed into the group's two relatively concise albums might be viewed by some as equivalent to the output of a more typical jazz group's entire recording career. ~ Dave Lynch, Rovi