Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

243

Deanna Witkowski: Length of Days

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Brian Camelio's ArtistShare model, allowing music to be distributed without the inherent loss of profitability that comes from dealing with all manner of middle men, has taken off in the past two years, with releases by artists like Maria Schneider, Jim Hall, and Cuong Vu. By placing more control in the artist's hands, he's made it possible for the kinds of sales numbers associated with jazz's more marginalized position to not inherently result in financial loss. And while the idea of internet-only sales is relatively new, the success of many of ArtistShare's releases proves that people are willing to accept innovative ways to get their music.

It's an especially important concept for less-known artists like pianist/vocalist Deanna Witkowski. While her first two albums—Having to Ask (Orchard, 2000) and Wide Open Window (Khaeon, 2003)—demonstrated an emerging talent, Length of Days is her most fully-realized to date, and consequently a perfect fit for the growing reputation and influence of ArtistShare.

It's no surprise that Witkowski studied with Chucho Valdés and Hilario Duràn, as her own writing clearly reflects an interest in Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music. But she's equally informed by the more detailed compositional approach of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays. The airy two-chord vamp that provides the foundation for her solo on "Beautiful Hands sounds, in fact, like an outtake from Pat Metheny Group (ECM, 1978), specifically the popular "Phase Dance. But her conception is all-acoustic, incorporating her wordless vocals in the same way that Metheny would on later albums like Still Life (Talking) (Geffen, 1987).

Still, while Witkowski retains strong ties to the music of Brazil, her references are subsumed in a distinctively soft veneer that isn't afraid to apply bolder contemporary harmony. When she sings lyrics, as she does on the little-known MGM tune "Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo and her own title track—a melancholy ballad which still possesses a clear optimism—she remains whisper-like and understated.

The overall ambience of Length of Days is relaxed and gentle—introspective, even—although the quartet's look at Cole Porter's "In the Still of the Night has a slow burn to it, as does the aforementioned "Beautiful Hands. And while Witkowski's piano style bears little of Monk's quirkiness on the classic "Straight, No Chaser, her ending—where she and saxophonist Donny McCaslin take the final phrase and reiterate it on a continual ascension into the stratosphere—shows that she's not without a sense of humour.

Witkowski's playing is considered but never contrived. Though she reflects some of Lyle Mays' romantic impressionism, she's a more steadfastly economical player. McCaslin, on the other hand, generates real heat on "Beautiful Hands and meshes beautifully with Witkowski's voice on "Song for Sarah and in playful call-and-response fashion on Prayer for Linda.

The depth of Witkowski's approach is almost concealed by her elegant delivery, but she's another contemporary jazz artist who successfully masks complexity in an undeniably accessible sound. Length of Days is a high water mark in Witkowski's career to date, and one well worth checking out.

Note: ArtistShare releases can only be purchased through the artist and/or ArtistShare sites.


Track Listing: Beautiful Hands; Hi-Lili, Hi-LO; Straight, No Chaser, Length of Days; Prayer for Linda; In the Still of the Night; Feed the Birds; Song for Sarah; I'm Beginning to See the Light.

Personnel: Deanna Witkowski: piano, vocal; Donny McCaslin: soprano and tenor saxophones; Dave Ambrosio: bass; Vince Cherico: drums.

Title: Length of Days | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: ArtistShare

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Live at Pyatt Hall CD/LP/Track Review Live at Pyatt Hall
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Flying Heart CD/LP/Track Review Flying Heart
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 23, 2018
Read The 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow CD/LP/Track Review The 3Dom Factor: Live in Krakow
by John Sharpe
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Solano Canyon CD/LP/Track Review Solano Canyon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 23, 2018
Read Lucas CD/LP/Track Review Lucas
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 22, 2018
Read In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording CD/LP/Track Review In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "Live In London" CD/LP/Track Review Live In London
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 8, 2017
Read "Trip" CD/LP/Track Review Trip
by Jeff Winbush
Published: September 12, 2017
Read "Let There Be Life, Love and Laughter" CD/LP/Track Review Let There Be Life, Love and Laughter
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: August 21, 2017
Read "Second City" CD/LP/Track Review Second City
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 1, 2017
Read "BACHanalia" CD/LP/Track Review BACHanalia
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 24, 2017
Read "Translator's Note" CD/LP/Track Review Translator's Note
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 28, 2017