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Dan Wilensky: Good Music

Dan McClenaghan By

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"There are only two kinds of music. Good Music and the other kind."

So said Duke Ellington, and probably a whole bunch of other people. Good Music is saxophonist Dan Wilensky's examination of music for music's sake, his unpretentious "serving the music" recording. Seven of the eleven tunes are chordless trio affairs, bringing—as a touchstone—Sonny Rollins' groundbreaking A Night At the Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 1958) to mind with its fearless flexibility and Wilensky's muscular and assured tone. Especially on the opener, George Gershwin's "S'Wonderful."

Good Music is a remarkably cohesive set, in spite of its disparate compositional sources—Gershwin, The Beatles, The Youngbloods, Sammy Cahn, Pablo Beltran Ruiz, George Cates, to go along with five strong Wilensky originals. Credit Wilensky's focused musical personality and vision.

Guitarist Dan Balmer sits in on four numbers, including The Beatles' "And I Love Her." It is the mellowest take on the tune imaginable—Wilensky's tone full and rich, with Balmer spinning luminescent spiderwebs around the deliberate rendering of the melody. From the rock group the Youngbloods—Balmer sits in again—Wilensky offers up "Get Together," turning the pop tune into an ominous dirge, with the Balmer adding a near-orchestral, Bill Frisell-like backdrop; while the Pablo Beltran Ruiz composition "Sway" could inspire a rise from the listening chair, and a sending of the feet slipping into a saucy cha-cha.

The set closes with George Cates' "Adios, Au Revoir, Alf Wiedrsehn," the Lawrence Welk theme song. Wilensky and company—including, on this one offering, accordionist Mike Danner—give the song a pastoral, lullaby feeling, a restive close to an inspired outing.

Track Listing: 'S Wonderful; This Morning; And I Love Her; Slick; Say What You Really Mean; I Should Care; Country Mouse; Get Together; Sway; Jazz In The Park; Adios, Au Revoir, Auf Wiedersehn.

Personnel: Dan Wilensky: tenor and soprano saxophones; Dave Captein: bass; Jason Palmer: drums; Dan Balmer: guitar (2, 3, 8, 11); Mike Danner: accordion (11).

Title: Good Music | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Polyglot Music


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