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In a review of Live at Bird's Eye, a CD by the Stewy Von Wattenwyl Trio featuring Eric Alexander, All About Jazz reviewer Jack Bowers praised saxophonist Alexander's ability to use his technique to form an emotional bond with the listener. That is what the best artists do, and it's what the pianist on that particular discStewy Von Wattenwyldoes so well here on Dienda. It's obvious from the very first notes of Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now"a dark, lonely soundand it's obvious in his ebullient take on Monk's "I Mean You" that the Swedish pianist means to draw you into his world.
In a review of my own early this year, I wrote that successful piano trio outings depended upon the musicians' ability to "get inside" the music. I left out that it's also necessary for the players to make the songsespecially the familiar standardstheir own. Von Wattenwyl and company are superb at this component of success, whether they're going after the Gershwins or Miles Davis ("Blue in Green"), or "My Favorite Things," or the title tune, "Dienda," written by the late pianist Kenny Kirkland; each song is imbued with the eloquent personality of the trio, with George Shearing's normally jaunty "Lullaby Of Birdland" given an oddly and beautifully introspective opening before it bounces into a brighter mode four minutes in.
Like many jazz pianists, Von Wattenwyl is classically trained, and he doesn't hold back or sandbag his prodigious technique, adding a compelling and assertive elegance to the familiar songs, and adding two very classic-sounding originals"Hold My Hand" and "Hellblau"to an excellent set.