Group therapy involves a collection of individuals coming together to work things out and sort through their thoughts in the same room. The same can be said for saxophonist Dan Wilensky's Group Therapy. Wilensky's wide-ranging career has involved everything from street playing and studio sessions to Broadway and a stint in Ray Charles' band. All of his experiences have helped him flesh out a personal sound that touches on everything from loose swing and free jazz to faux-Arabian fare.
Group Therapy features eight Wilensky originals, and a pair of radically reworked covers which throw a bit of humor into the mix. Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" attempts to shift gears between a bleary-eyed, dreamy pace and a more energetic swing feel, but the music usually idles in the slower, wonderfully woozy atmosphere. The other coverthe Petula Clark-associated "Downtown"begins with oddly overlapping statements of the main melodic motif, and features some impressive soloing from drummer Tony Moreno.
Wilensky's originals are no less unique than his arrangements of these classics. The album opener is a swaggering swing tune with a couple of false ending fake-outs, while the closing title track contains unshackled ensemble dialogue interspersed between unaccompanied, freely executed episodes. In between, Wilensky wanders into some odd-metered terrain built on slinky swing ("Perpetual Blues"), elevated by David Phelps' guitar work, while the irrepressible soul of "Real Time" features a solo showcasing Dean Johnson's pliant bass work. Phelps always feels at home in Wilensky's music, and his contributions, which cover acoustic, Spanish-tinged strumming ("Exotikiss"), Eastern-inspired fusion ("Certain Nights") and a whole lot more, are many and varied. Wilensky, likewise, can seemingly change his sound at will, moving from gritty to slick and sly with relative ease.
While many may dread going to therapy, being a fly on the wall as this quartet deals with the music at hand is a true pleasure.
Reckless Tongue; Real Time; Exotikiss; Certain Nights; Smile; Perpetual Blues; Neurology; 21st Century
Blues; Downtown; Group Therapy.
Dan WIlensky: tenor saxophone; David Phelps: guitar; Dean Johnson: bass; Tony Moreno: drums.