View So Tender: Wonder Revisited, Volume One
As time marches inexorably on, there are fewer people who think “Stella By Starlight” is a standard, and more for whom standards are songs by, say, Stevie Wonder. Jazz musicians, even young ones, have been slow to pick up on this demographic reality. Not pianist Joe Gilman. He has now recorded two volumes of Stevie Wonder songs.
He does them intelligently and comprehensively, in arrangements that assign the melodic hooks and rhythmic breaks of tunes like “Easy Goin’ Evenin’” and “Whereabouts” to members of his trio as if they were sections of an orchestra. On the best pieces here, Gilman retains the unmistakable piquant essence of the Wonder sound even as he subjects Wonder’s songs to bold jazz transformations. “Another Star” is taken so fast it goes by in a blur. “Knocks Me Off My Feet” is broken up and re-launched as a spattering waltz. In time-honored jazz fashion, Gilman uses “Cryin’ Through the Night” as an excuse to blow. He finds emotionally valid jazz ballad material in “You and I.”
Bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown are skilled, creative young players who are responsible for much of this project’s sense of hipness and currency.