What Goes Unsaid
As I begin writing these words, I experience similar feelings as when I begin working on a new musical composition. Sometimes I am able to compose with clarity and purpose and at other times I am utterly frustrated and waiting for something akin to divine inspiration to get me going. Having said this, I am at least started and I will try to just let things flow, only to edit later if necessary.
For this, my fifth recording as a leader, I have assembled a quintet of some of my favorite musicians. It is not yet a working band, but I envision this group working together and growing as a unit in the near future.
recently, I have not had a strong urge to try to generate work as a
leader. It has seemed more natural for me to work as a sideman in
various bands. This work has ranged from various small groups,
including five years with alto saxophonist Vincent Herring’s quintet, to
gigs with some of the finest big bands in the world. Among these big
bands is one of which I feel most proud, The Vanguard Jazz
Orchestra. Playing with this band, formerly the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis
Big Band, had always been a dream of mine. I was asked to join the
band about three years ago and I especially enjoy working, travelling and
recording with this group. I work with many other big bands but this
exceptional situation needs special mention because it affords me a great
opportunity for musical expression on a variety of tunes.
Dennis Irwin is one of the best bass players I know. I have played with him in several small group situations and also every Monday at the Village Vanguard. Consistency and energy are the words that first come to mind when I think of Dennis. I strive to have the intensity that he is able to sustain every time he picks up his bass. These traits are present in all that he does. Just hanging out with Dennis on tour is like a constant musical lesson. He is heavily into classical music and knows about many different types of music from throughout the world. He is always turning people on to something totally new, both musically and otherwise. As a musician, Dennis basically just has great taste. I hear so much depth in his playing that sometimes at the Vanguard I sit mesmerized by the simple beauty and deliberateness of his bass lines. Never are they too busy or vague. They always complement what is happening with the band at any given time. Playing with Dennis makes other players sound great. It’s that simple.
Anthony Wonsey is someone who I have not had a chance to play with much of late, but the occasions I have had, with Vincent Herring’s band and a few gigs with drummer Carl Allen’s group, had quite a lasting impact on me. Anthony possesses an ability that interests me the most in a piano player--the ability to really comp. This word, I believe, is short for accompany. I think of comping as literally complementing a soloist. Along with being a great improviser in his own right, this ability to comp is what helps to set players like him apart from the pack. He knows this role well and allows me the freedom I need to really take a solo where I want. He, along with the rest of the rhythm section, is able to lay down a sort of pool of sound and energy that I can play over. It is something that I can dip down into when I need or stay above it totally. This is something I especially consider in choosing a piano player. Anthony did not let me down on this account as you can hear throughout this recording.
is someone who I have known since 1985. I first met him when I was
in my third year at Indiana University. Eric came in with a crop of
new "young cats". I guess having been an upper classman to him that
I can say how proud I am of him both in what he is doing with his playing
and his career path in general. Back at IU, Eric was playing alto
and was a sort of raw but intense young player. He left Indiana
after one year for New Jersey’s William Patterson University and the next
time I heard him was in New York. What a surprise it was to see his
permanent change to tenor and to witness his staggering growth as a
musician! Again, consistency and intensity are words that come to
mind when I think of Eric’s playing. I guess these are traits I
really admire as I have mentioned them again as I reflect on the players
on this CD. I also appreciate how he has focused on getting his
music out in the public eye. It is not easy to be consistently
working only jazz gigs, but Eric is doing that and is an inspiration to
What can I say about Billy Drummond? The fact that he is the drummer on four of my five albums I have recorded should tell it all. I met Billy my first week in New York. He was playing with Joe Henderson at a now defunct club named Indigo Blues. I knew that night that Billy was someone I wanted to play with and luckily, it wasn’t too long before that happened. I have been able to work with him in a number of bands and enjoy listening to him on many recordings with other great musicians. That is what Billy is--a great musician! He is someone I know I can always count on to play any type of tune I write. He is always wide open and willing to let the music go where it may. Billy and his wife, gifted pianist Renee Rosnes, have become great friends of mine and I look forward to playing with them both and can’t thank them enough for their help and support over the last ten years.
In writing the tunes for this CD I was consciously trying to come up with material that is geared towards improvisation. By this, I mean vehicles for soloing that really feel comfortable and help me to play my best. In the past, some tunes that I have written stand up well as compositions, but do not always lend themselves to really comfortable soloing. For this date, I wanted to write songs that had the flavor of some of the tunes that I like most and have helped me in my musical development.
One of these tunes, B.G. is a literal musical nod to a writer and player who has always inspired me. I recently played at the Savannah Jazz Festival with my Quintet before Benny Golson was to appear as a headliner. It was a thrill to have him backstage hearing my music as he was preparing to play. It is hard to describe the thrill of being in this situation with someone who you remember from the first days of understanding what jazz is.
One other composition is a specific dedication. It is the title track, which is dedicated to my wife, Julie. What Goes Unsaid is written for her as a thank you for all of her unerring support for me both in my life as a musician and more basically, as a human being.
The rest of the tunes on the CD are not dedicated to any one or anything in particular but are more loosely inspired by the tradition of jazz. I think of my playing and writing as an offshoot of hard-bop with a modern thrust. Hopefully this combination will have enough momentum to carry me where I want and need to go.
Scott Wendholt - February, 2000 New York