Dan Wilensky: Made In Portland

Dan Bilawsky By

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Relocating is never easy, but it would seem that multi-reedist Dan Wilensky has acclimated quite well to the musical climate of Portland, Oregon since arriving there in 2012. The latest release from this man-of-many-talents puts him in close quarters with a collection of that city's finest musicians, a crew that's ready and eager to tackle Wilensky's originals and put new twists on old favorites from artists like Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael, and, dare I say it, Neil Sedaka.

The accurately-titled Made In Portland, cut over four sessions at Portland's Kung Fu Bakery in May of 2015, finds Wilensky confidently mixing up styles, personnel, and sentiments. The album opens on "Sweet 16," a get-your-groove-on blues with a sixteen bar framework delivered by a solid quintet. Then Wilensky starts to shift gears. There's the oft-covered "I Wish You Love," a vocal feature for Anandi Gefroh and an opportunity for Wilensky to play triple duty on soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, and flute; "Like Jack," a Bobby Timmons-worthy original; a mystery-laced "What Is This Thing Called Love?," flowing and swaying with low flame allure before full-on Latin spices kick in; and a version of "What'll I Do" that focuses on vocalist Rebecca Kilgore's matter-of-fact delivery and Wilensky's tenor and flute.

By the time Wilensky arrives at his own mood-shifting "Northwest State Of Mind" and relaxed-yet-mobile "Ancient Grace," it almost seems like he's ready to settle into the confines of a quartet and focus strictly on his own music. But then the curveballs start coming again—a bleary-eyed and free-moving "Let's Talk" for three horns, a tightly-arranged and tropically-infused "In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening" for vocalist Laura Cunard with octet backing, a semi-smooth take on Sedaka's "Laughter In The Rain," to mention three—and it's clear that Wilensky isn't putting down roots in any single musical space. Such directional diversity shouldn't really come as a shock, considering the fact that Wilensky has made a career out of his willingness to work in so many different scenarios, and the eclectic programming works quite well here. Made In Portland is a lovingly-crafted album that keeps the listener guessing.

Track Listing: Sweet 16; I Wish You Love; Like Jack; What Is This Thing Called Love?; What'll I Do; Northwest State of Mind; Ancient Grace; Let's Talk; In The Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening; My Slice of Paradise; Bela Baby; Laughter In The Rain; Longhair.

Personnel: Dan Wilensky: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, soprano, flute; Dan Gaynor: piano; Dan Balmer: guitar; Bill Athens: bass; Michael Raynor: drums; Israel Annoh: percussion; Levis Dragulin: trumpet; John Moak: trombone; Rebecca Kilgore: vocals (5); Anandi Gefroh: vocals (2); Laura Cunard: vocals (9).

Title: Made In Portland | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Self Produced

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