Lomax, Woods hope to spark conversation with ‘In Search of a City’

Poet and Alive columnist Scott Woods joins the Mark Lomax Trio for a Tuesday performance at the Garden Theater

Jim Fischer
Mark Lomax (left) and Scott Woods

Scott Woods has something to say about culture.

So does Mark Lomax.

“I’m the critic and he’s the hope,” Woods joked during a recent phone conversation.

Lomax didn’t completely disavow Woods’ purposeful oversimplification, explaining that, when he approached Woods about renewing their now-20-year history of performing together, he wanted to build on Woods' writings about culture, beginning to envision what could happen if the city engaged in all of the homework assignments Woods has been giving residents both in his weekly Alive column and elsewhere.

“I’m not looking to romanticize cities, or Columbus specifically, in any way,” Lomax said. “I want to offer a critique that doesn't end with the critique.”

If you’ve caught any of the pair's past collaborations, this one won’t look much different on the surface, with Woods reciting his original poetry to music both composed and improvised by the Mark Lomax Trio, which includes Eddie Bayard on saxophone and Dean Hulett on bass, in addition to Lomax on drums.

Indeed, much of Lomax’s past work has excluded voice, whether sung or spoken, the musician seeking to create a space in which the drum features as the primary storyteller, as is common in many African cultures. But with "In Search of a City," Lomax said, it was appropriate to see if those two things could speak side-by-side.

“As a Black man, it seems obvious that so many of our issues draw from racism, classism… all the ‘isms.’ But those things don’t just affect Black people,” Lomax said. “So, what if we came past all of that, to see ourselves as one human family? What would it take for us to build that kind of optimum environment?”

“That’s why I wanted to incorporate Scott as a storyteller,” he continued. “I have a sense that when the [human] voice is added, it might engage the audience in a different way. I trust Scott as an artist, and I know he has something to say that I think people need to hear in this context.”

Woods admitted this starting-to-answer-some-questions part of Lomax’s ask is taking him a bit out of his comfort zone.

“I tend to create from a place where I want you to do the work. I’m just giving you the fuel to do it without telling you what the answer is. And we’re both traditionally pretty confrontational,” Woods said. “The only thing different now is how we’ve both grown, and that this is what we have to say in 2021.”

Lomax said this tension-resolution (even if the resolution is only partial or hinted at) is at the heart of “In Search of a City.”

“We live in an era where if we disagree, we can’t be friends,” Lomax said, bemoaning America’s cultural segregation, which he said comes from our geographic and economic segregation. “People don’t travel to other parts of the country, or even to other parts of their own city. This makes us more intellectually segregated, and we just don’t listen to each other.”

“We can’t have these needed conversations and stay safe. We need to share and receive our and someone else’s truth with respect and love,” Lomax said. “Then maybe we can exchange ideas authentically. If we can do that in this program, if we can say something that causes someone to react, negatively or positively, but follow-up with a question or conversation, then we’ve done our job.”

Mark Lomax Trio feat. Scott Woods

“In Search of a City”

7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 21

Short North Stage (Garden Theater)

1187 N. High St., Short North