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Dave Pietro: Standard Wonder

The breadth and stylistic range of Stevie Wonder’s repertoire offers many treasures for jazz musicians looking for newer riches. Too often, though, jazz musicians explore Wonder’s music half-heartedly, never giving the compositions deeper investigations with harmonic, rhythmic and stylistic reconfigurations. Instead it seems that when a jazz musicians wants a fast, radio-friendly tune they dole out safe renditions of Wonder hits like “I Wish” and “You and I.”

Fortunately, alto saxophonist, flutist and arranger Dave Pietro and pianist and arranger Matt Lemmler understand the true riches of Wonder’s music, and both players exhibit enormous amounts of love and creative zeal to not cover his tunes on autopilot. If Pietro’s Standard Wonder and Lemmler’s Portraits of Wonder were released on major labels it would have been all too easy to cynically view these CDs as niche concept records designed to make inroads into the record market. These CDs, however, contain sumptuous arrangements that brilliantly recontextualize Wonder’s music without sacrificing the composer’s original emotional intentions.

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