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William Menefield: Big Will Leaps In

Jim Santella By

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Acoustic piano trios are the backbone of mainstream jazz, allowing for a proper balance of both expository and extemporaneous material. The three artists have distinct roles that require cohesion and "big ears." Cincinnati veteran Art Gore and bassist Tyrone Wheeler make fine partners for the teenaged William Menefield. Born to a musical family, the talented pianist seems a natural for small ensemble leadership. Menefield wrote four pieces for this debut album, exhibiting a grasp of the essentials and revealing an appreciation for the music that normally takes developing artists at least a dozen more years before reaching fruition. The addition of Mike Wade and Kevin Engel on three tracks adds variety while digging deeper into the mainstream well. Menefield’s clear and confident piano style is percussive, but light. He prefers bop-derived staccato phrasing along with fluid keyboard articulation.

Standards, like a listener’s old friends, are mature and reliable; they go out of their way to please you. The familiar melodies make you feel right at home, creating a common bond. With Engel joining the trio for "Equinox," things turn out quite like we remember John Coltrane’s original. With Menefield standing alone on "Misty," we recognize the lovely approach Erroll Garner embodied. Turning to Dizzy Gillespie’s arrangement of "A Night in Tunisia" we recognize the familiar horn interplay and the energetic workout from each member of the quintet. Holding fast to the building blocks we revere, while taking his time to explore and expand, William Menefield has made a strong start with the promise of a bright future.


Track Listing: Owenthology; Big Will Leaps In; Equinox; Mismatch; For Patriece; Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise; Bye-Bye Blackbird; Misty; Straight, No Chaser; A Night in Tunisia.

Personnel: William Menefield- piano; Tyrone Wheeler- acoustic bass; Art Gore- drums; Mike Wade- trumpet, flugelhorn; Kevin Engel- tenor saxophone.

Title: Big Will Leaps In | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: J Seven


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