NOT SOME BORING TRIO: Center Stage Theater underwent a sonic
remodeling on Monday, as the Headless Household — with Joe Woodard
on guitar, Dick Dunlap on keys, and Tom Lackner on percussives,
plus close to a dozen talented musical aides — dropped its annual
December dose of jazz eclectico. The blast-off was “Plaything,” an
aptly titled Dunlap number that featured Lackner playing children’s
squeeze toys before delivering the most adventurous drum beat ever
imagined upon a plastic Playskool drumset. Woodard, his face frozen
in the “look-what-I-made” smirk, walked around handing out various
childish noisemakers, and the night — comprised mostly of songs
from the new HH album Blur Joan — was rolling. Filling in for
founding bassist Chris Symer was the rotating duo of Jim Connolly
and David Piltch, and the role of vocalist was shared nicely
between Julie Christensen’s voicebox and Tom Buckner’s singing sax.
Rounding out the guests were Jeff Kaiser on trumpets, Bill Flores
on pedal steel (perfect for “A World Without Polka,” one of the
older faves), Tom Ball on harps, and, on elegant strings, cellist
Claudia Kiser and violinist Sally Barr. The night’s 14 songs ranged
from the twangy paced “3 a.m. Western” and the more pensive
“Buffoons” to the R&B fun of “My Left Brain” and the frenetic
“Blur Joan,” which showed off Lackner’s ability to produce a rapid
rhythm that even crystal-meth heads could dig. And leading it all
was Woodard, whose guitar mastery allows him to use his instrument
as subtly as a conductor’s wand or to take center stage, using a
slide to emulate sounds of a deejay scratching vinyl or plucking
ever so tightly to evoke the internal monologues of a computer.
What a weird, wonderful, wacky wreck, once again.  — Matt


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