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Deanna Witkowski: Having to Ask

Deanna Witkowski is a vibrant young pianist now based in N.Y.C. Her debut release, Having to Ask, presents a clear musical vision that fuses straightahead jazz with a variety of Latino and Afro grooves. Jonathan Paul and Rob Amster (bass), Tom Hipskind (drums) and Jose Gregorio (percussion) help Witkowski showcase her original compositions and illuminate her immense musical gifts.

Classically trained, Witkowski discovered jazz in college and studied with pianist Brad Williams and tenor saxophonist Larry Panella. It motivated her to move to Chicago after graduation where she flowered playing in William Russo and Rob Parton’s big bands as well as in the all-woman sextet SHE. During that time she also had the opportunity to teach piano in Western Kenya; Witkowski interprets the experience on the upbeat “Rains in Kenya.” Scatting along a la Tania Maria on the opener “Happening at Once,” Witkowski treats us to her melodic but occasionally thin voice on several pieces including a couple of standards done with a Patricia Barber bent. The Monkish “Cooked Macaroni” features the soprano sax of Jim Gailloreto who is a great discovery as well on tenor and flute. Witkowski got hooked on Latin playing in local salsa bands, and she plays a mean montuno. She has since studied with Cuban pianists Hilario Duran and Chucho Valdes and nods to the former on the cool “Danzon para Hilario.”

Originally Published