108

Dan Wilensky: Group Therapy

Charles Walker By

Sign in to view read count
Dan Wilensky: Group Therapy Tenor saxophonist Dan Wilensky possesses a warm, accessible tone on his instrument, and at first glance Group Therapy seems tailor-made to feature this broad, bluesy sound on ten straightforward compositions. However, less than two minutes into "Reckless Tongue," the album opener, the syrupy head breaks down into a standstill of rests and whole notes before sliding back into the relaxed groove that carries the tune the rest of the way. This brief moment of suspense perfectly encapsulates what makes the disc such an enjoyable listen: Wilensky and his band mates get to the point without much pretension, but inject the proceedings with enough micro-level surprise to keep things interesting.

These kinds of surprises abound on an otherwise concentrated, succinct set. "Exotikiss," a leisurely and lovely samba, lopes its way through the harmonic daring of Wilensky's solo, until he suddenly inserts a quote of "Surrey With the Fringe on Top," bringing it to an unexpected, but welcoming conclusion. Elsewhere, the group pulls on the familiar melody of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" like taffy, drummer Tony Moreno's martial snare rolls darting in and out, speeding and slowing the tempo to its natural limits. "21st Century Blues" is all lurching stop-time and backbeat bluster, but collapses in its middle section into guitarist David Phelps' minute-of-skronk. And the sultry "Certain Nights" alternates between the dense, Middle Eastern modalities of John Zorn's Masada and a straight-ahead, swinging B section.

Wilensky is obviously a firm believer in the power of concision; only three of the ten tracks clock in at more than five minutes. The benefit of this approach is that it allows him to showcase a greater variety of his compositions, as well as to highlight the focused cohesion of the quartet's members. Unfortunately, it also means that sometimes, just when things are heating up, the band pulls back in, restates the theme, and moves on to the next piece. On the band's reimagining of "Downtown," for instance, both Wilensky and Moreno attack with fiery vigor during their respective solos, and seem to call for some traded bars or extended interaction. Just as suddenly, however, the band cools down and continues quickly on to the wispy, legato album closer.

Communicating clearly and leaving a few notes un-played is certainly preferable to the opposite. The saxophonist/leader has spent several years working in commercials, television and films, and the self-editing needed in those fields is a strength he brings to the oftentimes prolix world of jazz. That said, there is a naturalism to this set of music that arises out of the combination of talented improvisers and pointed leadership. It is a mature, generous music, that manages to sound both spontaneous and slightly lived-in, Wilensky's welcoming, burnished tone a tethered center throughout the madcap romp of his compositions. That is a veteran's feat.


Track Listing: Reckless Tongue; Real Time; Exotikiss; Certain Nights; Smile; Perpetual Blues; Neurology; 21st Century Blues; Downtown; Group Therapy.

Personnel: Dan Wilensky: tenor saxophone; David Phelps: guitar; Dean Johnson: bass; Tony Moreno: drums.

Year Released: 2011


Shop

More Articles

Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read The Invariant CD/LP/Track Review The Invariant
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read Akua's Dance CD/LP/Track Review Akua's Dance
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Daylight Ghosts CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read "King Of Xhosa" CD/LP/Track Review King Of Xhosa
by James Nadal
Published: January 23, 2017
Read "Falga" CD/LP/Track Review Falga
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 18, 2016
Read "Dream Delivery" CD/LP/Track Review Dream Delivery
by Dave Wayne
Published: July 28, 2016
Read "Reconnect" CD/LP/Track Review Reconnect
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: February 26, 2016
Read "We Drift Meridian" CD/LP/Track Review We Drift Meridian
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 15, 2016
Read "The Whole World Must Change" CD/LP/Track Review The Whole World Must Change
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 13, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!