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Deanna Witkowski: Wide Open Window

Dan McClenaghan By

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New York-based pianist Deanna Witkowski opens up Wide Open Window with the first of three Cole Porter tunes, a trio workout of "All Through the Night" with enough harmonic liberties to rend the tune nearly unrecognizable; but it's still a lovely, energetic rendition, an up-tempo romp over a flexible rhythm. It's a trio again for "Just One of Those Things," a bit more reverent this time, with some tight yet inventive improvisation by Witkowski. The third Porter tune, "From This Moment On," suffers a bit from "sweetness" and the addition of Witkowski's unnecessary wordless vocals.

I mention these three Cole Porter tunes – two fine and interesting renditions and one perhaps a bit of an indulgence – because I want to get onto Witkowski's compositions, which are first rate. "New August Tune" has a relaxed Latin flavor – Witkowski has studied with the renowned Chucho Valdes – that features Donn McCaslin's open-toned tenor sax and another fine solo by the pianist.

The title track is the highlight, a bluesy tune dedicated to Mary Lou Williams with a bunch of loose interplay within the quartet. "A Rare Appearance" features Brazilian rhythms, with McCaslin cooking again on tenor. The trio tune "Speak My Name" shifts from Afro-Cuban to cha cha cha, then dips into swing, with bassist Jonathan Paul punctuating Witkowski's light touch.

The disk also includes Witkowski's solo take on the classic "You and the Night and the Music," a blending of a classical feel with jazz, the classical side dominating; and there's also Rogers and Hammerstein's "A Wnderful Guy," which opens with a pensive piano solo before the band pulls it into a simmering Latin groove.

The closer, "Sanctus," a Witkowski-penned religious tune – part of a larger Mass Witkowski composed for All Angels' Episcopal Church in Manhattan's Upper West Side – seems tacked on here, though it's interesting to hear McCaslin's sax growling around the pews.

Track Listing: All Through the Night; New August Tune; Wide Open Windows; From This Moment On; A Rare Appearance; Speak My Name; Just One of those Things; You and the Night and the Music; A Wonderful Guy; Sanctus.

Personnel: Deanna Witkowski-Piano, Vocals; Donny McCaslin Soprano and Tenor Saxophone; Jonathan Paul-Bass; Tom Hipskind-Drums.

Title: Wide Open Window | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Khaeon World Music

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