Get in. Make your point. Get out. That appears to be the approach of tenor saxophonist Dan Wilensky with his fourth recording as a leader, Back in the Mix (Speechless Productions, 2012). He wastes no effort and doesnít extend songs just for the sake of extending them.

A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Wilensky grew up in a musical family, in which jam sessions were frequent. His evolution as a jazz artist includes performances on the streets of Berkeley, California, festivals, gigs with local bands, awards in competitions and guest soloist for the Woody Herman Orchestra. Assisting him in this project are pianist Mark Soskin, bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Tony Moreno. Trumpeter Russ Johnson appears on a few tracks.

The title song opens this session. Trumpet and sax blend on the lead of this lively piece. Theyíre strong, but not overpowering, because thereís not a moment when the listener loses track of the bass, drums or piano. There are several points during the solos when either Johnson or Moreno shows out a little, but keeping within the unity of the group.

The nine songs are similar in that they all engage the entire group, regardless of which instrument has the lead at a given moment. But the melodies and moods vary. One thing that can make or break a jazz album is the presentation of the drum track. Programs tend to sound artificial or come in repetitive loops. Perfectionist songwriters can also tie the hands of a competent drummer. However, when a live drummer is involved in a project and plays like he feels the music, the results are usually very good. Though he is not the star, Moreno can be considered the glue that holds Back in the Mix together.

Back in the Mix is relatively short for a jazz recording, at just over 49 minutes. However, six well-written original songs and three excellent arrangements, combined with exceptional play and interaction of the musicians, deliver plenty of enjoyment. Wilensky and friends donít leave a sense of something missing or that the songs are too short. Itís just right.



 

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