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Spike Wilner: La Tendresse

Mark Corroto By

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But having been told that one word reviews aren't sufficient, how about this: Pianist Spike Wilner's disc La Tendresse is pure joy.

Wilner can probably best be described as an old soul occupying a modernist corpus. His foundations in ragtime and stride piano inform the music heard here, but like Thelonious Monk, he uses the tradition as the architecture for the anatomy of a modern player. Even his take on "Crepuscule With Nellie," the classic Monk expression of hesitation and suspension, is delivered as a tender blues. More importantly, he delivers it without the cartoon clichéd dawdling.

Wilner's approach is to brighten each piece with the energy of his playing. Like his hero, Willie "The Lion" Smith and other Harlem stride pianists, he makes the difficult seem quite simple. The speed at which the trio navigates "After You're Gone" is just short of tumult. Drummer Dezron Douglas and bassist Joey Saylor chase, and then are chased by, the exuberance of Wilner's piano.

He is also quite comfortable carrying the day unaccompanied. As with his previous solo recording Live At Smalls (Smalls Live, 2011), Wilner performs several solo pieces here. The old Carol Burnett sign off tune "I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together" is rationed with the appropriate melancholy, and Harold Arlen's "If I Only Had A Brain" bounces and frolics with a campy stride fitting the dopey scarecrow.

The trio performs Irving Berlin's "Always," raising the bandstand much like early Bill Evans would, interlacing a subtle and intellectual swing with a quasi-classical approach. The highlights of this disc might be Scott Joplin's "Solace" and Bernice Petkere's "Lullaby Of The Leaves." Both tracks beg for comparison to master musician Bebo Valdes' playing. With "Solace," Wilner mixes his ragtime approach with Valdes' Cuban-folk take on American jazz.

There is much rejoicing to be had—or heard—here.

Track Listing: La Tendresse; If I Only Had A Brain; Solace; Silver Cord; Always; Lullaby Of The Leaves; After You've Gone; Le Sucrier Velours; Little Girl Blue; Crepuscule With Nellie; I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together; Happy Ending.

Personnel: Spike Wilner: piano; Dezron Douglas: bass; Joey Saylor: drums.

Title: La Tendresse | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records


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