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What's New on WDCB... with Paul Abella

March 14th, 2022

Let’s consider this a “Best of…” edition of my weekly What’s New on WDCB. All three of these I’ve already profiled in previous weeks, however it seems a good time to revisit them as all three are currently being offered as Thank You Gifts as part of our Spring Pledge Drive.  I hope you’ll have a chance to support WDCB this week !! And thank you in advance!

Scott Burns, John Wojciechowski & Geof Bradfield – Tenor Time (Afar Music)

2021 saw the launch of the Chicago based record label, Afar Music, with the excellent album Altoizm, which featured the talents of Greg Ward, Rajiv Halim and Sharel Cassity, all on the alto saxophones. To kick off 2022, Afar is striking again, and this time with a bigger saxophone on Tenor Time. Saxophonists Scott Burns, John Wojciechowski and Geof Bradfield are joined by Richard D. Johnson (piano), Clark Sommers (bass) and Greg Artry (drums), and the music is just as fiery as you might expect from the very first notes of the opening tune, “Valkyrie.” Whatever flavor you’re looking for, they seem to have it covered on Tenor Time, from a beautiful ballad (“Some Other Sunday”) to a mid-tempo blues that screams “CHICAGO!!!” (“Altar Blues”), to some knotty and nimble uptempo romps (“Jazz Folk Song” and “Corea”). It’s rare that you see a contender for album of the year come out in January, but mark my words, I’ll be shocked if we’re not talking about this one at the end of 2022.


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.


Hinda Hoffman & Soul Message – People (Know You Know Records)

Hinda Hoffman and the Soul Message Band have been frequent collaborators on stages throughout the Chicagoland area for quite some time now, so it’s not necessarily and sort of shock that they would record together. But seeing and holding and hearing People, their new album, and the fruit of their labor, is a genuine joy. Hoffman’s a great singer that I hope will be singing more often as things slowly get back to normal. And Soul Message is, well, Soul Message. Chis Foreman (organ), Lee Rothenberg (guitar), Greg Rockingham (drums) and Greg Ward (saxophone) make for an always potent team. This album swings hard, and from the first notes of “All of You” it is clear that neither Hoffman nor the gentlemen in Soul Message are taking any prisoners whatsoever. People is the sound of a mature and confident singer and a band that aren’t just some of the best in Chicago, but are some of the best in the world. Dig it!

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