274

Dan Willis and Velvet Gentlemen: The Satie Project

Raul d'Gama Rose By

Sign in to view read count
Dan Willis and Velvet Gentlemen: The Satie Project French composer Erik Satie (1866—1925), a contemporary of Claude Debussy, was often scorned and, had it not been for his friend, Debussy would have been largely ignored as well by his generation. Debussy not only supported Satie, but championed his work as well, and saw to it that some very forward thinking pieces, such as the "Gymnopedie," were publically performed, too. Satie experimented with dissonance and, more importantly, he often used avant-garde harmonic changes in his pieces as well. In "Gymnopedie # 1," for instance, consists of an alternating progression of two major seventh chords; the first on the sub-dominant G, and the second on the tonic D. This kind of harmony was largely unknown at the time of the late 19th Century, when they were composed. The melodies of the "Gymnopedies" were also unique. Each used a deliberate dissonance against the harmony, producing a kind of piquant melancholy effect.

Perhaps it is this, as well as the fact that the music is soothing, yet strangely exciting, that first attract modern musicians and composers such as Dan Willis. Willis was driven to explore Satie further and in depth, resulting in The Satie Project. The album is brimful of remarkable music, played with restraint and, often, high emotion by the ingenious multi-reed player, and a medium-sized ensemble comprising some of the finest musicians on the New York Scene. It must have been a challenging project to undertake, as all of Satie's music interpreted here was essentially composed for the piano. Willis has reinterpreted it for a considerably expanded group that includes trumpet, flugelhorn, trombones, B3 organ and accordion—and, of course, his generous assortment of reeds.

The moods vary, from the gentle and sweet on "I Idylle," to the slow, dolorous and grave, as on the three "Gymnopedie." Willis and his group play the music as Satie intended, largely following the composer's instructions. However, the transposition from piano to woodwinds, brass, strings and percussion is a vast, musically philosophical leap; one that Willis and his Velvet Gentlemen group have made with daring and majesty.

Willis seems to have grown right into the emotion of each piece, enabling him to determine just which reed instrument, from the bevy he brought to the recording, fits which mesmerizing part of the music. On the glassy music of the "Gnossiennes," for instance, Willis dallies often on single reeds like a soprano saxophone, melded in with double reeds including oboe or the Armenian duduk. The burnished glow of the "Gymnopedies" and "Nocturnes" come from risqué flushing of the sound canvas with the growling burble of the B3 organ and the squeezing, shrill whirling of the accordion, with accents from Willis and violinist Antoine Silverman.

The term "complete album" is often rather loosely used, but The Satie Project is one occasion where it is wholly appropriate, as the music passes from one tone poet—the beguiling Satie—to another, the incomparable reeds maestro, Dan Willis.


Track Listing: Second Gymnopedie; Nocturne # 2; I Idylle; Nocturne # 3; Third Gymnopedie; First Gnossienne; Nocturne # 4; First Gymnopedie; III Meditation; Nocturne # 1; II Aubade; Second Gnossienne; Nocturne # 6; Nocturne # 5; Olga Polka.

Personnel: Dan Willis: tenor saxophone; soprano saxophone; oboe; English horn; Flute; piccolo, clarinet, bass clarinet, duduk; Chuck McKinnon: trumpet, flugelhorn, electronic pedals; Pete McCann, electric guitar, acoustic guitar; Ron Oswanski: B3 organ, accordion; Kermit Driscoll: electric bass, double-bass; John Hollenbeck: drums, percussion; Jonathan Owens: trumpet; Tim Sessions: tenor trombone, bass trombone; Richard Sosinsky: double-bass (2); Antoine Silverman: violin.

Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Daywood Drive Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Across the Universe" CD/LP/Track Review Across the Universe
by Dave Wayne
Published: May 1, 2016
Read "Music Box Music" CD/LP/Track Review Music Box Music
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 8, 2017
Read "The Invariant" CD/LP/Track Review The Invariant
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Shawn Maxwell's New Tomorrow" CD/LP/Track Review Shawn Maxwell's New Tomorrow
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 16, 2016
Read "The Long Good Friday OST" CD/LP/Track Review The Long Good Friday OST
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 1, 2016
Read "Southern Lights" CD/LP/Track Review Southern Lights
by Budd Kopman
Published: May 26, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!