David Woodhead’s Confabulation





     Immersed in the world of independent music-making from the start, David Woodhead has had a truly wide-ranging and dynamic career, evolving a distinctive melodic and textural approach that he can mold to fit almost any situation.

     You’ve probably seen David’s name listed on the backs of recordings in your collection and, yes, he's on some 300 projects and worked with many influential artists including Perth County Conspiracy, Stan Rogers, Oliver Schroer, Gil Scott-Heron, and David Sanborn. His live gigs have included working with Malagasy guitarist Donné Roberts (a recent Juno nominee), classical-folk fusioneers Ensemble Polaris and veteran jazzers Manteca, as well as touring internationally with master songwriter James Keelaghan. David has done instruction at the Folk Alliance International conference (Kansas City), Haliburton Winter Folk Camp, the Goderich Celtic College and Ontario’s The Woods. He's been an invited guest improvisor at Arraymusic and Casey Sokol’s improv soirées at York University, and done a Music Residency at the Banff Centre, working on music which led to his most recent Confabulation CD, Tunnels and Visions. Recently he's been taking part in various events involving Quebecois and Balfolk (European folk dance) music, playing tenor banjo and mandolin.

     His own music draws from the intimacy of the folk world, the harmonic sensibilites of jazz, and a sense of precision from classical arranging, with room for freedom in individual expression and improvisation. David's Confabulation ensemble has a somewhat exotic and rambunctious nature, while the more recent Oriana Quartet is focused on taking a folk-jazz chamber music approach.

From the beginning:

Growing up in a musical Montreal household with a collection of Folkways records, where his parents' friends came over to play music for fun, he started playing ukulele and banjo at grade school assemblies. Childhood summers in Vermont gave him exposure to a player piano with a pile of rolls of popular and classical hits of the early twentieth century, an influence still apparent in his repertoire! There were music lessons on piano, violin and recorder, moving on to high school bands, then doing six-nighters in the Ottawa Valley.

After earning a degree in Geography, he moved to the countryside near Stratford, joining the ground-breaking Perth County Conspiracy (“does not exist”), which led to other contacts in the independent Ontario singer-songwriter scene and connecting with emerging songwriter Stan Rogers. Leaving the freelance Ontario scene behind, he lived on the West Coast for two years (1978-79) and developed his bass style in the trio Island, in which he was the main soloist. After the breakup of the band came a return to Ontario and extensive work with Sneezy Waters, Valdy. Brent Titcomb and Scott Merritt, eventually (1988) hooking up with Oliver Schroer, Don Ross and percussionist Mark Duggan, who were exploring new musical territory in the group Eye Music. The relationship with Oliver Schroer proved particularly enduring and David worked on most of his recordings through the following years, absorbing much inspiration.

Along the way there have been many fruitful learning experiences in the studio working with producer/engineers Daniel Lanois, Roma Baran (Laurie Anderson), Arthur Barrow (Frank Zappa), John Switzer (Jane Siberry), Stacy Heydon (David Bowie), Paul Mills (Stan Rogers), and Steve Rodby (Pat Metheny) – all people who took time to shape music and explain their philosophies and methods.

David has kept many artifacts from his decades of music-making – reel-to-reel tapes, cassettes, and photographs documenting a considerable range of Canadian musical activity. It's an ongoing project digitizing and cataloging it, but those gems being unearthed make it all worthwhile!

I've watched him work many times over the years and he's that musician who leads from in front and behind as the situation demands and seems happiest planting various challenges and musical surprises in a spirit of playfulness – Jowi Taylor

Was that you playing the bass up there? Oh, you’re delicious!”

- Odetta