If you could use some joy in your life, try As Long As There’s Music, a piano trio CD featuring pianist Richard Wyands with bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Grady Tate.
Mr. Wyands has the storytelling aspect of music down pat. Whether it is the romantic conflict in "What’s New" (solo piano), the crisp swing of "Focus," or the exquisite evolution of love in "Stairway to the Stars," he reveals the action, the emotion, and the spirit of each episode of life presented in a song. It’s obvious that Mr. Wyands knows the lyrics to the songs, as he expresses the situations so clearly.
The most valuable part of art—what it has to do with what we as human beings go through passing through life—and what insight the artist offers to us about that—is often left out these days. It is gratifying to find As Long As There’s Music, a work that has that interpretive talent in its essence.
Born in Oakland, CA, Wyands went to San Francisco State College and came to New York in 1958, where he worked at Minton’s and many other clubs. He has performed around the world and recorded with many stars, including Roy Haynes, Oliver Nelson, Etta Jones, Charles Mingus, Illinois Jacquet and Slam Stewart. Mr. Wyands recorded as a leader for Criss Cross, Steeplechase and DIW. Perhaps justifying its name, Savant provides Wyands’ American label debut as a leader.
Light is very important element in Mr. Wyands’ playing, and it is there in his tone quality (gleaming), in his emotional timbre (radiance) and his articulation (crisp). The sound of "love"—not love lost, not love yearned for, but love itself—the giving kind— there is an abundance of that feeling in his artistic pallette. There is not that much hope depicted in modern art, yet the kind of magnificent love expressed in "Stairway to the Stars" is full of hope and faith. It imbues the CD with exuberance in "Stolen Sweets," "As Long As There’s Music," and the gaiety of "Drop Me Off in Harlem," (which has nothing to do with the absence of strife or hard times—there was a lot of gaiety in Harlem during the period this Ellington song was written, as well as despair). It is the kind of gaiety that spits in the face of hard times and bounces back from sorrow—it has the rebellious quality that says, "I’m not gonna let you get me down, you dirty dog."
Wyands is a rare artist who has assimilated swing, blues, bebop, hard bop, progressive, cool, etc. and evolved a seamless, unique style. Swing is the thing on this recording, so you leave feeling satisfied as if you had a good home-cooked meal—with no regrets. Added bonus: Wyands does not seem to play extra notes. As Long As There’s Music is a disc you can play for the rest of your life and leave for your kids and grandkids to enjoy.
Personnel: Richard Wyands: Piano;
Ray Drummond: Bass;
Grady Tate: Drums.