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Anthony Wonsey: The Thang

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This album is about as impeccable as spirited jazz gets. Anthony Wonsey’s sideman work with people like Nicholas Payton and Carl Allen showed that he was a capable young modern-mainstream pianist. The Thang demonstrates impressive growth to a new level of technical command. Two factors make the clean execution especially notable.

First, Wonsey’s trio (with bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Joe Farnsworth) had rarely worked together before this recording session, and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, who joins on half of the eight tracks, was a new musical associate also.

Second, every track requires a different skill. “All the Things You Are” is an in-depth fresh interpretation of a much-played standard that turns the song’s celebration poignant, even through shifting tempos. The title track has a knockdown funk hook worthy of Bobby Timmons. “Pamela” is a floating, elegant bossa nova. “Hey Jimmy” is a memorable melody that deserves lyrics. “The Paper Chase” is a fast minor vamp that Alexander eats alive. “Speak Low” is a jazz version of Kurt Weill, all steely and bright. “Overjoyed,” by Stevie Wonder, is lush and lyrical, with a loose-limbed Joe Farnsworth groove beneath it. “Billy Boy” is pure, exhilarating speed.

Another reason why this album feels immaculate is the clear, precise, balanced recorded sound of engineer Mike Marciano.