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Don't confuse Deanna Witkowski's youthful exuberance for lack of musical erudition. On her spirited debut album, Having to Ask , the twenty-something pianist/singer/composer exhibits a wide-ranging musical knowledge that belies her tender years.
Nearly everything Witkowski does has a strong Afro/Caribbean taste, reflecting her study with Cuban pianists like Chucho Valdes and time spent in Africa. She even turns a Charlie Parker blues ("Au Privave") into a salsa number. Her original compositions, like the opening "Happening at Once" and the title cut, are complex and colorful, with a catchy, contemporary feel.
Her hushed, Chet Baker-style vocals are featured on a handful of cuts, mostly in the form of wordless scatting along with the melody a practice that could be annoying, but in Witkowski's quiet, unobtrusive delivery, is quite effective. She also turns in an impressive performance at the piano. A highlight is her stirring solo recital of the ballad, "Blame It On My Youth" (an appropriate choice for the young artist), rendered with subtlety, grace and consummate skill. Backed by a talented small ensemble (trio plus saxophone and Latin percussion), Witkowski makes a sparkling debut.
Deanna Witkowski, piano and vocals; Jim Gailloreto, sax and flute; Jonathan Paul, bass; Rob Amster, bass; Tom Hipskind, drums; Jose Gregorio, percussion.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was studying at the University of Puerto Rico. Nearby, I found a little record shop where the music coming from the store (Taller de Jazz Don Pedro) made me stop. I walked down the short stairs and towards the music and learned that the music playing was Clifford Brown and Max Roach
I was first exposed to jazz when I was studying at the University of Puerto Rico. Nearby, I found a little record shop where the music coming from the store (Taller de Jazz Don Pedro) made me stop. I walked down the short stairs and towards the music and learned that the music playing was Clifford Brown and Max Roach. I fell in love with it. I wondered around until the owner (Pedro Soto) asked if I needed help. He then introduced me to John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan and the rest is history. I walked out of the store with my first jazz recording: Clifford Brown and Max Roach at Basin Street.