What's New on WDCB... with Paul Abella
Patricia Barber – Clique! (Impex)
Vocalist, pianist, songwriter and Chicagoan Patricia Barber has a new album out called Clique! Over the course of 9 tracks, she covers an enormous amount of ground, from the greasy slithering groove of “This Town” to the be-bop turned inside out and upside down on her arrangement of Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser.” She makes a nice run through “Shall We Dance?” sound absolutely effortless, and her sparse arrangement of “The In Crowd” really works, thanks to Patrick Mulcahy’s supple bass playing. My favorite moment is the lone Barber composition here, an instrumental called “Mashup.” It’s fierce, it’s loose and it’s very cool.
Pat Bianchi – Something to Say (Savant)
Organist Pat Bianchi has been including Stevie Wonder songs on his albums for a while now, so it makes sense that he’d finally do a deep dive on the Wonder catalog on his latest album, Something to Say. He certainly put together a great team to do it. Joined by Byron Landham on drums and Paul Bollenback on guitar (longtime Jazz fans will recognize those names as two thirds of the Joey DeFrancesco Trio throughout the 90’s and early 00’s), and saxophonist Wayne Escoffery for a couple of cameos, this band does some great work on some of Stevie Wonder’s less trodden work. “Isn’t She Lovely” (okay, they’re not all less trodden) retains the buoyant shuffle of the original, “Something To Say” is Escoffery’s standout moment, and there’s a lone original in the mix: Pat Bianchi’s “Just Callin’”which is a total barn burner and a lot of fun to hear.
Deanna Witkowski – Force of Nature (MCG Jazz)
Deanna Witkowski, if you’re not aware, is a powerhouse of a pianist with some local roots. A student of the prestigious Wheaton Conservatory, Witkowski is a skilled pianist with classical chops, a background in church music and a deep love of Jazz. Those three pieces all come together beautifully in this tribute to the brilliant pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams, Force of Nature. Deanna is complimented by two different rhythm sections over the course of the album, and on a handful of tracks, they’re joined by trumpeter Clay Jenkins, too. Together, they swing hard on this project that was clearly a labor of love, and I think you’re going to dig this one as much as I am.