Anthony Wonsey: Open the Gates
There's a refreshing breath of originality that pervades much of Wonsey's work here and his writing, in particular, is strong and cliché free. As for his piano playing, just look out, because the man has it covered- from stride to avant! Duke Pearson's seldom-heard "Big Bertha" receives a transcendent trio performance that starts in stride fashion and then works its way towards a deep and bluesy groove that locks in tight and holds on for dear life. The other trio cut here, "Invitation", also gets revamped and the results are anything but a retread.
The remainder of the date finds Wonsey fronting a quintet with old boss Nicholas Payton and seasoned tenor saxophonist Ron Blake. The title track goes for broke with a catchy vamp that launches the theme and then recapitulates as a closing backdrop for drummer Nasheet Waits' pyrotechnic displays. Payton's "Into the Blacklight" hints at vintage Miles, circa '65-'66, and two takes of Wonsey's "My Heart is With You" recall the bucolic whimsy of a classic Wayne Shorter melody. Throughout it all, Wonsey leads with an authority and confidence that is rare for a player of his age. It all adds up to an impressive "opening of the gates" for a talent that we'll be surely hearing more from as the years go by. In the meantime, treasure this one for all its worth.
Track Listing: Xavier's Arrival, My Heart Is With You I, Invitation, A Song For Audrey, Open the Gates, Big Bertha, Into the Blacklight, My Heart Is With You II, Blues for Russell and Polly (73:31)
Personnel: Anthony Wonsey- piano, Nicholas Payton- trumpet, Ron Blake- tenor saxophone, Gerald Cannon- bass, Nasheet Waits- drums, John Webber- bass (tracks 3 and 6 only), Willie Jones III- drums (tracks 3 and 6 only)
Record Label: Criss Cross