There are few greater champions of the old and
new in jazz than pianist/club owner/musical antiquarian Spike Wilner. His role in resuscitating and running one of the most important night spots for jazz in New YorkSmalls Jazz Clubhas made him a hero to those who frequent that bastion of musical integrity, but he's also revered as an ivory tickling keeper-of-the-flame for musical styles of yesteryear. Stride piano and ragtime are at the root of his playing, but he also mixes modern sensibilities into his work, demonstrating a one-foot-in-the-past and one-foot-in-the-present musical philosophy.
Wilner's work blankets the entire history of jazz piano, as he moves from parlor playing and rent party romping to supper club elegance to modern manifestations with ease, but he still sounds best when working through old gems and giving nods to piano giants of the past. "If I Only Had A Brain" has a dainty design at first, but eventually bears the mark of Wilner's herothe cigar-smoking, derby-wearing Willie "The Lion" Smith
Moving in a different direction, "Solace" struts along with New Orleans swagger, fusing Scott Joplin
-esque tendencies with Jelly Roll Morton
moves. Wilner goes on to channel Duke Ellington
on the great man's "Le Sucrier Velours," but he's his own man when he tackles Thelonious Monk
. He tips his hat to the High Priest of Bop on "Crepuscule With Nellie," but never resorts to flat-out imitation.
The title track gives Wilner a chance to move forward a few decades. Donning a modernist's attire, he makes some Herbie Hancock
allusions, and works through a cyclonic section of music, but the majority of the program isn't as bold.
While this is a piano showcase from start to finish, Wilner's trio mates make their mark along the way. Bassist Dezron Douglas
' woody tones give the music depth and direction, while drummer Joey Saylor
finds the right tack to take with every tune. Wilner could
carry the whole program on his own, but the rhythm section adds volumes to the music.
Wilner and pianist/label mate Ehud Asherie
who can also frequently be found performing at Smallshave proven that "old" and "outmoded" are two very different things. Both men have made their mark by putting their chops and knowledge of early twentieth century piano stylings to good use on their respective dates for Posi-Tone. Now, it's high time for them to get together for a two-piano date, whether cutting contest or collaborative affair. Wouldn't that be something!?!