DAN WILLIS AND VELVET GENTLEMEN
The Satie Project (Daywood Drive)
Dan Willis is a New York-based multi-reedist. This disc consists entirely of his reinterpretations of music by French composer Erik Satie, so you’d probably expect it to be “chamber jazz,” and you’d be partly right. Some pieces, like “Nocturne #3” or “First Gymnopedie,” are quite beautiful in that way, swaying slowly like willow trees in a late spring breeze. “Nocturne #5” feels like the overture to a really beautiful classical piece. But there are other tracks that have little or nothing to do with the proto-ambient feel most listeners identify with Satie. “I Idylle” is a scorching jazz-rock fusion track with ferocious guitar from Pete McCann that sounds like something from Frank Zappa’s Shut Up ’n’ Play Yer Guitar, and “Third Gymnopedie” features a semi-reggae groove that lumps along with Ron Oswanski’s accordion and Antoine Silverman’s violin adding crucial melodic adornments. Still other tracks, like “Il Aubade,” lurch along in a way that kinda reminds me of the Claudia Quintet disc from earlier this month—not all that surprising, since both feature drummer John Hollenbeck.
I think if this album had stuck to one mood, the one on the quieter and more classical/chamber-jazz pieces, I’d have liked it more. But the harder Willis and band try to recontextualize Satie’s melodies, the more alienated from the whole exercise I get—and the more it starts to feel like an exercise, the kind of thing that should have come out on Tzadik. There’s about a half hour of terrific music here. But that’s not enough to make me recommend the disc as a whole.
1. Do I foresee myself listening to this record again? Maybe a track or two here and there, but not the whole thing.
2. Should you buy this record? Despite the obvious talent on display, I don’t really think so.
Link to purchase, if you’re so inclined…