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Brad Whiteley: Presence

Jerome Wilson By

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Pianist Brad Whiteley has had a lot of varied experiences in his career. He has played with rock artists like Regina Spektor and David Byrne and improvisers like Dave Liebman and Cameron Mizell. He's also worked on film soundtracks and played in the pit band of a Broadway show. That eclecticism is reflected in Presence—his second album as a leader—through his original compositions mixing varying combinations of jazz-rock, mainstream jazz, progressive rock, and jazz-funk.

"Dusk" begins the program with a swift, angular jazz-rock line played by Whiteley, saxophonist Michael Eaton and guitarist Tom Guarna, leading to a rippling solo by Whiteley and an extended chattering drum rampage by Kenneth Salters. "Sunset Park" changes the mood as Whiteley and the rhythm section trace an attractive cool jazz melody that changes tempo and volume with every repetition, Eaton and Guarna eventually joining in to add weight to the sound. "The Unwinding" and "Everything Changes" follow the The Bad Plus's route of an improvising piano over rock beats. On "Unwinding," swift break-beats and trebly guitar underpin Whiteley's chiming chords and delirious soloing. On "Everything," Salters and bassist Matt Pavolka keep a steady rhythm moving while Whiteley's slippery solo touches on waltz, ragtime and swing.

The heavier side of Whiteley's music is heard on "Sinking Feeling" and "Demagogue." The first is a mix of angular, progressive jazz-rock with squalling tenor that comes off like King Crimson and piano replacing guitar. The second tune sports a spinning, baroque melody with a heady saxophone and guitar unison line. It eventually gives way to surging piano and guitar solos as the bass and drums cool down to quiet, funk-injected rumbling.

"Presence" is a delicate ballad with Whiteley's spidery piano figures setting the table for baroque tenor twists and billowing guitar. "When We Met" is a bright trio piece with the light grooving touch of Vince Guaraldi and Bill Evans. "K Car Funk" sounds influenced by both Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, with its combination of bluesy phrases and fast classical runs enhanced by Eaton's honking tenor. Finally, "A Dark Day" ends the set in typically mixed fashion with a piano trio tango that tosses in bits of calypso, blues, and reggae.

Brad Whitely is no genre purist. All of his compositions twist and turn through multiple styles playfully and effortlessly. His piano playing keeps the melodies prominent but leaves room for impish and restless improvising. Pavolka and Salters maneuver through his work with admirable dexterity while Guarna's and Eaton's contributions provide further body to the whole. This music has deceptive complexity but comes off throughout as fun and smart .

Track Listing: Dusk; Sunset Park; The Unwinding; Sinking Feeling; Everything Changes; Presence; When We Met; Demagogue; Dawn; K Car Funk '83; A Dark Day.

Personnel: Brad Whiteley: piano; Matt Pavolka: bass; Kenneth Salters: drums; Tom Guarna: guitar; MIchael Eaton: saxophone.

Title: Presence | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Destiny Records

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