Dennis Winslett

Dennis Winslett

by Rahsaan Clark Morris

copyright © 2004 Rahsaan Clark Morris

Young journeyman saxophonist Dennis Winslett has released his first major project, a CD of original compositions on his own independent label Black Folk Music. Speaking about the project, he explained this is not his first effort as leader, but the other works were smaller in scope and did not include as many original compositions, opting instead to perform well-known standards.

Soul Journey, recorded at The Hedges studio here in the city, shows off Winslett's skills on the soprano sax and not just the alto, which he is probably more well known for playing. He couldn't have come up with better sidemen for this project than the rhythm section of premier local bass player Harrison Bankhead, drummer Kobe Watkins and the up-and-coming Bryan Nichols on piano (on about half the tracks; the other tracks are admirably handled by pianist Miguel de la Cerna). Nichols has made a name for himself as a pianist for Ernest Dawkins' LiveThe Spirit Band and other AACM related gigs.

Winslett opens the disc with energy and forcefulness on the soprano on the aptly-titled "Fanfare and Emergence," the track also highlighted by Nichols' driving solo on piano. "Soul Journey," the title track, has Winslett coming out on alto sax, his style here, with its funky push, reminiscent of the best of the Capital Records' Cannonball Adderly soul sessions. Standard instrumentation for a soul excursion such as this date has always included an organ, and with the melody voice being taken up by Winslett on the soprano, "Da Grind" is a perfect example of the genre, with Watkins' time-keeping inflected with a little hip-hop, and guest James Austin on organ smoothly handling the rhythm chords and the bass pedals.

The emotionally charged "Destan (Pain of Love)" has a Sketches of Spain feel to it with echoes of the melancholy of Danish soprano sax man Jan Garbarek in Winslett's stylish interpretation. The disc cools down with the inclusion of the jazzy samba "In Angel's Paradise," placed alongside one of the two tracks with guest vocalist Dee Alexander, the beautifully simple "Dancing Jing."

The band doesn't relax too long because after a nice free-form opening, "Tasmanian Devils" breaks into a straight-ahead, boppish blowing tune for the whole group to stretch out on. Kobe Watkins brings his usual expertise and excitement to his solo, while Bryan Nichols shows why he is becoming one of the better comping pianists in the city. The final two tracks are like the A and B sides of a vinyl mix, with the lilting melody of "Ancient Folk Music" augmented by Miss Dee's vocals for the tune "Ancient Folk Song." Something should be said about the independent spirit that produced this music. Over the past few years there have been a slew of independently and locally produced recordings by black artists that are doing well artistically and not just commercially — which says something positive about where artists such as Famoudou Don Moye, Dennis Winslett, Nikki Mitchell, David Boykin, and Malachi Thompson are going and where they are continuing to take this music. If major labels continue to ignore the creative musicians from this area, the money will just end up in the pockets of the artists themselves, which is where it should have always been in the first place.


C o m m e n t s

And just in case you were wondering... 1 of 1
David W. September 15, 04

...the "city" that Rashaan Clark Morris refers to in his excellent review --and the city in which all the musicians he mentions are based and work regularly-- is Chicago.

David W. [his chest swelling with unabahsed regional chauvinism and pride]

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