200 Days in the Life of the College

Monday, September 13, 2010

If you’ve got the fever, ‘the Doctuh’ is in

By Olivia Wolfgang-Smith ’11

“My quest for sound is insatiable,” Michael Woods says. “If there’s a silver lining, I want to know what it sounds like.”

The professor of music and director of jazz studies at Hamilton, known as “the Doctuh,” proves his point this evening while performing a selection of his original compositions at the Jazz Kickoff Concert. He plays bass in an ensemble made up of talented local musicians, several of whom also teach private lessons at Hamilton.

Woods has titled the concert “Sonic Photos.” The pieces are a collection of “sound snapshots,” a range of upbeat improvisations and poignant blues melodies intended to capture specific sensations or events, such as “The Crude Blues,” inspired by the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“You can’t take a snapshot of that,” Woods says in his introduction to the haunting ballad “She Didn’t Call.” “But you sure can feel that.” And Woods makes his audience feel it right along with him, filling the Fillius Events Barn with cheers and applause after every number.

Woods is in his natural element onstage, singing along with his own improvised solos and grinning throughout those of his colleagues. He conducts from the back of the ensemble, casually sliding hand signals into the musicians’ peripheral vision to indicate changes in key or instrumentation.

“If you’ve got something you want to do,” he says with a grin near the end of the concert, “you’d better get up and get to it. Because the day is boogieing, and it waits for no man.”