In this initial collaboration between The Cellar Music Group and The Smalls LIVE Foundation, it is no small wonder that driving forces behind this effort are the founders, Executive Producers, and close friends Cory Weeds and Spike Wilner. Respected musicians in their own right, Weeds and Wilner have a common appreciation and concept about jazz music. Accordingly, having pianist Wilner lead his own trio that includes bassist Tyler Mitchell and drummer Anthony Pinciotti on this release made perfect sense.
Recorded in August 2020 at GB's Juke Joint, Astoria, New York, this nine track session of predominantly Wilner original compositions is designed to act as a therapeutic for the angst brought on by the ongoing effects of the pandemic that everyone has faced over the past year. The opening track "Righty-O!" from the pen of drummer Johnny Ellis (now deceased), is a burner that dances along with some heavy duty block chord invention from Wilner, with drummer Pinciotti pushing the number forward with some tasty drumming.
Although Wilner's musical education was in jazz, he is familiar with the classical realm, hence his two following compositions, "Non Troppo" and "Adagio," which were informed respectively by Beethoven and Bach. Wilner's interpretations of these compositions retain the sense of the moment, and the conceptual basis of the solos is grounded by the underlying melodies. On the latter composition, there is a pensive arco introduction by bassist Mitchell which lays the foundation for the balance of number.
"Blue Gardenia" was written in 1953 by Lester Lee and Bob Russell for the noir movie The Blue Gardenia. The song was performed by Nat King Cole, who had a small part in the film as a lounge singer. Wilner and the band keep an eye on the composition's origin by providing it with a sensitive and pensive interpretation. "Stella By Starlight" is a standard in the jazz vocabulary and here it is taken at a sprightly pace with assertive single note playing from Wilner. Bassist Mitchell takes an extended solo showing both his technique and curiosity.
The title track, "Aliens & Wizards," is another Wilner original number. It is an unstructured rumination that provides for spontaneous interaction among the band members. This is a release that is grounded in collegiality and musical compatibility.
Righty-O!; Non Troppo; Adagio; Mindset; Blue Gardenia; Stella By Starlight; Aliens & Wizards;
Prayer For Peace; Trick Baby.