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Flutist brings quartet to club


When jazz musician Charles Rahmat Woods was growing up in the 1950s, he found himself in a quandary as he was taking piano lessons but his family couldn't afford to buy the instrument so he could practice at home.

He often saw a man walking in his Buffalo, N.Y., neighborhood carrying a flute case, and he thought to himself, "That looks pretty cool, and it's easy to carry."

So, he started playing the flute in high school and within a month he had joined a band.

"I have loved it," said Woods. "The sound is popular, but a lot of people don't pick it up. ... It just seemed to come into my hands."

Now, at age 51, Woods, of Olney, is leading the Charles Rahmat Woods Quartet, which will perform March 7 at Silver Shadows nightclub in Columbia.

The performance is part of the Baltimore-Washington Jazzfest's 1st Thursday Jazz Set, offering a monthly dose of jazz in Columbia for fans who can't wait until summer for the annual Jazzfest.

"These monthly events sort of whet the appetite," said Claude M. Ligon, director of the executive board for the Baltimore-Washington Jazzfest. "They're more like appetizers."

A program of the African Art Museum of Maryland, Jazzfest will begin June 14, bringing local and national artists to the area for a weekend celebration.

The idea for the monthly performances came about when the board starting planning for Jazzfest and determined there was a year-round demand for jazz that should be met instead of making fans wait for a year.

Ligon said the board decided on a monthly show, from December through May. The performances usually attract 60 to 70 people. "The demand is there," he said. "It serves as a purpose for building up to our big weekend, rather than serving up our big week of jazz and then going cold turkey until next year."

Ligon said he saw the Woods Quartet at a Washington club and was struck by the performance, which he called "dynamic."

"You don't find many groups with a flautist," he said. "And that makes him unique."

In the quartet, Woods plays with Joe Link on drums, Dauda on bass and Glen Arnette on keyboard. The group, which has had a rotating membership, has been together about a year.

With some members of his current quartet, Woods has released a compact disc Modern Music Therapy, dedicated to the jazz of Ron Haynes. In almost a year, the CD has sold about 300 copies through an independent label, and Woods plans to sell it on the Internet.

Woods, who works in insurance administration, also plays the saxophone. He calls his two saxes "ancient instruments" because one is 90 years old and the other is 70.

"There's a lot of spirit attached to these instruments," he said.

Woods has performed in New York, but he said that once he moved to the Baltimore-Washington area 25 years ago, he found the local jazz scene more satisfying and intimate for performing.

"Any night of the week you can go out and hear good music here," he said. "They've got responsive audiences; they love live music."

Ligon, co-founder of the African Art Museum of Maryland, said the Jazzfest and monthly performances are a way to help educate people about African-American culture, the roots of the music.

"It's important to keep the music form before the public year-around," Ligon said.

Woods said he also wants to expose people outside urban areas to jazz, which makes the Columbia setting ideal. He said he has always been impressed by the music's ability to bring people together, allowing people from different cultures to come together in the same room to enjoy a music style that emerged from black culture.

"This type of music came out of our very difficult experience," Woods said. "And it was able to be translated ... into something that's very humanly accessible, and that's the beauty of it, and that's what has to be recognized."

The performance is scheduled from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Silver Shadows, 5550 Sterrett Place, Columbia. Admission is $10; free to members of Friends of the Baltimore-Washington Jazzfest. Information: 410-730-7105.

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