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.