Home » Jazz Articles » Album Review » The Spike Wilner Trio: Aliens & Wizards


The Spike Wilner Trio: Aliens & Wizards


Sign in to view read count
The Spike Wilner Trio: Aliens & Wizards
Spike Wilner, generally noted in his native New York City as an excellent jazz pianist, is even more widely known as proprietor of two of the city's leading jazz clubs, Smalls and Mezzrow. Though hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, Wilner has soldiered on, presenting live music whenever possible and forming the SmallsLIVE Foundation, a non-profit arts group dedicated to creating and propagating jazz in New York through recordings, live streaming, archiving, educational initiatives and live performances. Wilner's foundation teamed up with fellow musician and entrepreneur Cory Weeds' Cellar Music Group to produce Aliens & Wizards, a splendid trio date showcasing Wilner, bassist Tyler Mitchell and drummer Anthony Pinciotti.

Besides leading the trio, Wilner, who shows admirable control of the keyboard, wrote six of the album's nine selections to accompany the standards "Blue Gardenia," "Stella by Starlight" and the high-stepping opener, "Righty-O!" Even though Wilner's compositions are laudable, the other three clearly stand among the album's highlights. Wilner earns high marks for the earnest, hymn-like "Prayer for Peace," which modulates to soulful blues and freewheeling jazz before returning to its reverential taproot, and for the fast-paced finale, "Trick Baby" (aka "Love for Sale"), wherein everyone loosens up and lets the sparks fly as they may, as they do earlier on Wilner's double-quick "Non Troppo."

The mercurial "Righty-O!" ("Lady Be Good"?) would test any trio's mettle; Wilner and his mates not only meet the challenge head-on but do a commendable job of taming the beast. Wilner frames a crisp solo, which is followed by dynamic four-bar exchanges with Pinciotti. That leads to a trio of Wilner's amiable charts: "Non Troppo," "Adagio" and "Mindset," followed by "Gardenia" and "Stella," whose inherent charms are earnestly brought to the fore by the trio. Wilner is notably eloquent on "Gardenia," well-spoken and sturdy on "Stella," wherein Mitchell also solos sharply. As Aliens & Wizards was recorded in August 2020, "at the height of the pandemic," as the liner notes attest, the assumption is that everyone was suitably masked and distanced. Whatever the case, Wilner's trio has recorded an impressive session, which, as icing on the cake, is devoted to a good cause. Let's hope that normal times return soon to Smalls and Mezzrow—and, indeed, to every venue in New York City and around the country—rekindling the fire and excitement of live jazz for audiences who have for too long been unable to respond to and appreciate its insuperable spirit.

Track Listing

Righty-O!; Non Troppo; Adagio; Mindset; Blue Gardenia; Stella By Starlight; Aliens & Wizards; Prayer For Peace; Trick Baby.


Album information

Title: Aliens & Wizards | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: CellarMusic




For the Love of Jazz
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.


Elegy for Thelonious
Frank Carlberg Large Ensemble
Mendoza - Hoff - Revels
Marco Baldini
Hackney Diamonds (2CD)
Rolling Stones


Jazz Hands
Bob James
London Afrobeat Collective
Light Streams
John Donegan - The Irish Sextet

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.