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Bennie Wallace: The Nearness of You

Bennie Wallace’s stylistic characteristics normally include a passionate aggressiveness, but his latest offering showcases his other side, a quiet romanticism. Although his signature leaps and bounds and Dolphy-like arpeggios do appear at times, The Nearness of You (Enja/Justin Time) focuses on Wallace’s ability to convey a beautiful melody with warm expressiveness.

Utilizing his full, voluptuous tone-smooth and even throughout the entire range of the instrument-and an acute sense of dynamic contrast, Wallace imbues these nine standards, most of them ballads, with great feeling. For colleagues, he wisely chose pianist Kenny Barron, who performed brilliantly on Stan Getz’s last recordings, and bassist Eddie Gomez, a long-time collaborator. Barron consistently impresses with the lyrical fluidity of his solos and with his empathic accompaniment. And Gomez continues to demonstrate a mastery of his instrument’s role in the ensemble. The absence of a drummer merely enhances the intimacy of the setting. Highlights include “Cocktails for Two,” where Gomez improvises a counter-melody behind Wallace’s reading of the tune, and “The Nearness of You,” which moves seamlessly through several keys.

Originally Published