View So Tender: Wonder Revisited, Volume One
Joe Gilman likes to do albums devoted to songs by a single composer he admires. His two volumes of Time Again: Brubeck Revisited worked because Gilman’s relationship to Brubeck, the man and the composer, is close. His interpretations of Brubeck’s music were always personal.
On paper, a program of Stevie Wonder tunes looks like an even better idea. Indeed, View So Tender is a companionable piano trio album, perky and polished and positive.
But the concept imposes limitations. For all their singable melodies and metrical catchiness, there is a sameness of tone in the cheery romanticism of Wonder’s music. Almost all the tracks here are the same length and the same bouncy tempo. In a jazz context, songs like “That Girl” and “Love Light in Flight” are a little too cute. Gilman’s affection for this material is genuine. Every arrangement contains a meticulous jazz translation of the theme, careful improvisation with the theme in view, and wraps everything with a bow before closing. Gilman’s very young rhythm section of bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown plays this tricky stuff flawlessly. It is all good clean fun, and only a grouch would complain that it is inconsequential.