A Hollywood/TV industry musician who has performed on, or arranged for such programs as, The Today Show, David Letterman, The Tonight Show and several others, Portland-based composer and saxophonist Dan Wilensky is currently performing and teaching in Portland, from where he records his fifth album as leader on Made In Portland, offering eight fresh new originals and five covers including vocal renditions of songs from Irving Berlin, Charles Trenet and Hoagy Carmichael. As the album title indicates, the saxophonist records this project in Portland from where he assembles a talented group of musicianseight in allplus three female vocalist, to document this superb session of vocal and contemporary jazz.
Leading off with the first original "Sweet 16," featuring the saxophonist fronting a preferred quintet, captures Wilensky's aggressive tenor style on a bluesy-tinged melody highlighting play from all members on this set which include guitarist Dan Balmer, pianist Dan Gaynor, bassist Bill Athens and drummer Michael Raynor. The music shifts warmly on Trenet's love classic "I Wish You Love" where singer Anandi Gefroh voices the lyrics in French as the leader turns a triple play performing tenderly on the tenor, soprano and the flute.
The other gentle ballad of the disc, Berlin's "What'll I Do?," showcases more of Wilensky's softer side on the tenor and flute as guitarist Balmer and vocalist Rebecca Kilgore are also highlighted on this light and beautiful version of the classic. Wilensky's clever arrangement of Porter's dark-toned "What Is This Thing Called Love?," makes this piece one of the more memorable and outstanding tunes of the recording with the leader's full-throated tenor voice enjoined by a horn section of trumpeter Levis Dragulin and trombonist John Moak.
Offering something a bit different on this session, there is "Northwest State of Mind," "Ancient Grace," and "Let's Talk," three introspective tunes falling squarely on the modern jazz side of the landscape while Carmichael's "In The Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" returns the music to more traditional territory presenting the last vocal performance, this time from Laura Cunard delivering the lines on a moving and lively tempo.
The instrumental version of Neil Sedaka's "Laughter in the Rain," features the horn section once again on a recognizable melody where the saxophonist performs some of his best solo moments of the album on another marvelous take of the pop standard. Other notable tunes include "My Slice of Paradise" featuring the leader on alto, the percussive "Bela Baby," the straight burner "Like Jack" and the brief but assertive finale "Longhair." A truly gifted artist and multi-instrumentalist, Dan Wilensky's highly-entertaining Made In Portland provides a showcase for this saxophonist to feature his more than appreciable chops on the reeds and his talents as a composer in one nicely-polished musical endeavor, compelling in all respects.
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.
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).
All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.
WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.