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Spike Wilner Ensemble: A Blues of Many Colors

Dan McClenaghan By

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Pianist/composer Spike Wilner got the group together for a month of gigs at Smalls, the jazz club in in New York's Greenwich village, to polish up their chops for the recording session that resulted in A Blues of Many Colors. Time well spent: they put a nice shine on nine of Wilner's compositions.

The ensemble is a quintet, piano/bass/drums rhythm behind the rather unusual combination of a guitar/alto sax front line. And an initial impression of the set is how well the front line blends; lots of unison playing, the guitar seeming to echo around the brassy alto grooves. Sax man Ian Hendrickson Smith has a sweet tone—on a blindfold test the name Phil Woods might come up, and Woods is a straight line back to Charlie Parker.

This is a true ensemble workout; nobody hogging the spotlight, though there is some fine front line soling, with Wilner taking an occasional step out front.

Wilner is a skilled accompanist, in the mode of Harold Mabern, who lately has been sitting in behind Eric Alexander, George Coleman and Ned Otter. Like Mabern, he doesn't call a lot of attention to himself; but everyone around him is sounding great. It's worth a spin or two of the CD just to listen to what he's doing.

A solid set of songs, the highlight perhaps the title track—hot, bebopish, the rhythm relaxed, grooving.

www.freshsoundrecords.com

Track Listing: Upsaka, Prelude, A Blues of Many Colors, The East Village Inamorata, The Silver Card, Wyrick's Fable, Foolish Lament, A Stitch in Time, Spike Strikes

Personnel: Spike Wilner, piano; Kenji Rabson, bass; Brian Floody, drums; Yves Brouqui, guitar; Ian Hendrickson Smith, alto sax

Title: A Blues of Many Colors | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Blue Moon

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