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Album Review

Spike Wilner Trio: Plays Monk & Ellington

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Spike Wilner Trio: Plays Monk & Ellington
Not to mince words, this is a splendid album by New York-based pianist Spike Wilner and his trio, recorded in January 2022 at GP's Juke Joint, which must double as a recording studio, as there is no audience. No matter the venue, it is difficult to wander too far astray when playing the music of Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington, even though the album could have been called Plays Monk & Ellington & Strayhorn as the last two numbers, "U.M.M.G." and "Intimacy of the Blues," were not written by Ellington but by his dependable right hand man, the inimitable Billy Strayhorn.

Also, the trio does not play Monk, Ellington and Strayhorn's music "exclusively," as the fourth track, "Wonderful! Wonderful!," is associated with none of the above but is a Johnny Mathis pop hit from 1956 written by Sherman Edwards with lyrics by Ben Raleigh. It is also the session's unquestioned flag-waver, pushing forward at a rapid pace while giving Wilner a chance to showcase his excellent chops. In all, Monk wrote four of the album's nine numbers ("Eronel," "Well, You Needn't," "Pannonica," "Let's Cool One"), Ellington two ("Gypsy Without a Song," "Le Sucrier Velour"), Strayhorn and Edwards the others.

Although Wilner weaves the melodic pattern, this is a trio and Wilner could not have asked for a more able-bodied rhythm section than bassist Peter Washington and drummer Joe Farnsworth, veteran performers on the New York scene who would make any ensemble sound better than its individual parts. Besides forming a sturdy rhythmic component, each of them is an impressive soloist, complementing Wilner's ad libs with invigorating renditions of their own.

To sum up, this is an alliance that is hard to reprove, a topnotch trio performing eloquent music by three of the jazz world's most celebrated composers. That much of the music is probably familiar to jazz enthusiasts means the next move is up to them.

Track Listing

Eronel; Well, You Needn’t; Pannonica; Wonderful! Wonderful!; Let’s Cool One; Gypsy Without a Song; Le Sucrier Velour; U.M.M.G.; Intimacy of the Blues.

Personnel

Spike Wilner: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Joe Farnsworth: drums.

Album information

Title: Plays Monk & Ellington | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Cellar Records

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