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Brad Whiteley: Presence

Mike Jurkovic By

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It's not stretching the imagination to wonder where and how New York City fits the myriad of excellent jazz players who call the city home. They come, gratefully, from everywhere, bringing with them fresh ideas, odd twists on the tried and true and a creative energy that lights this most fertile diaspora.

Making comparisons with Dave Brubeck can often be a stretch of that same imagination and also a fool's errand. But Whiteley, who navigates his many selves—his CV includes being long-time keyboardist for Regina Spektor, pit band keyboardist for the musical Avenue Q, and musical director/organist for the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in the Bronx—plays with voicings and instrumental interplay as easily as the old master. It is from this standpoint that Brad Whiteley delivers his gregarious sophomore release.

Courtesy of guitarist Tom Guarna and drummer Kenneth Salters, one may not readily detect the Brubeck underpinnings given the punchy, guitar-driven powerhouse opener "Dusk." Things get deceptive again with "Sunset Park," which starts life as a standard blues then begins its sprint with the graceful play of Whiteley, Guarna, and Michael Eaton on sax.

With nary a track shorter than five minutes, Whiteley lets his music breathe, allowing the sextet plenty of thoughtful airspace to interpret and improvise. "The Unwinding" moves crisply through its deft tempo changes, Whiteley and Guarna again providing concise solos until breaking into a deep-rooted bop bass and snap-happy snare workout from Mark Pavolka and Salters. The wistful choreography of the title track, "When We Met" and "Dawn" bring Brubeck to mind, the tunes wrapping around themselves in various hue and texture and elastic melodies that stretch one to the other and forward. Contemporary jazz at its finest.

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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