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Album Review

Anthony Wonsey is one of many jazz pianists who made their debuts during the 1990s, but his second release for Sharp Nine finds him in the process of creating his own distinctive style. Dividing the play list between originals and familiar tunes from the world of Broadway, pop, and folk, Wonsey is joined by bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Joe Farnsworth, with tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander added on several tracks. He immediately teases the listener by playing the theme of "All the Things You Are" before detouring into Dizzy Gillespie's famous introduction to Jerome Kern's well-known standard. Alexander joins the trio for an inventive, strutting take of "Speak Low" that adds a hip hook. It's hard not to think of Red Garland's famous take of "Billy Boy" while he was with Miles Davis; this version pays homage to this famous recording. Wonsey's own compositions have catchy melodies that make one want to hear them again. "Pamela" is an infectious yet easygoing bossa nova. The tense post-bop cooker "The Paper Chase" was created especially for the meeting with Alexander, who negotiates its sudden twists with ease. But the sassy funk within "The Thang" may very well turn it into Wonsey's most requested number on club dates, as it seems impossible that any audience would be able to sit still while listening to it; yet there the pianist never allows the theme to regress into a predictable pattern. If you're not already familiar with Anthony Wonsey's work as a leader, this is an excellent place to start.

Biography

Born: 1972 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

An adventurous yet flexible pianist with a potentially significant future, Anthony Wonsey started playing music when he was six. Wonsey studied first with his mother (a classical pianist) and then Zilner Randolph. After earning a full scholarship to Berklee, from which he graduated in 1994, Wonsey moved to Boston and played locally with Roy Hargrove and Antonio Hart, among others. While still at Berklee, Wonsey toured with Christopher Hollyday, Nnenna Freelon, and Kenny Garrett. During the past few...
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The Thang, Anthony Wonsey
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