It's impossible not to think while listening to Lorraine's Lullabye of being in a lovingly designed jazz club, the sort of spot that revels in the mystique of the music, has atmospheric framed prints on the walls, subdued lighting and maybe dinner at 8 before the set, treats the musicians and the audience well and is a natural fit in terms of respect, accommodation and comfort for the art of jazz. There is an elegant understatement to pianist Anthony Wonsey's style that suits such an environment. He is certainly a sympathetic player accompanying a singer like Carmen Lundy. But here the focus is mostly on instrumental straightahead jazz. The Chicagoan is not the most extrovert of players so you have to be patient to appreciate his touch which reveals itself wisely and knowingly.
Musicianship is centre stage, this album is not at all gimmicky. The Wonsey approach is certainly to explore the tradition in transition when the tradition he is tapping into is coming out of pianists such as Oscar Peterson, Cedar Walton, Mulgrew Miller and Monty Alexander. The one vocal on this Jeremy Pelt-produced album is with Milton Suggs on 'Melancholy Mind' kept to last and it's a gem developed on from the pulse of a bossa beat to blossom via a different feel into a romantic ballad. There's also a fine Pelt-like muted trumpet contribution from Antoine Drye who also crops up on 'Do You Remember Me?' the introduction to which by Wonsey is certainly one of the best moments on an album it's easy to admire. I also really loved it when the super subtle touch embedded in his style is most obvious as on 'Little Mouse' which purrs like the sound of a Silver Shadow and where drummer Chris Beck's brushwork sweeps you along and there is a great sense of flow as well a stately grandeur in Wonsey's exposition of the theme.
The bustling 'Blacker's Black Revenge' adds heat and the album could have done with more up-tempo numbers like this. But it's a solid effort all round whether you feel this or not. Opener 'Sweet Lorraine' is very retro, more so than anything else and ushers you into Wonsey's world (here making me think of Erroll Garner) where it's win win all the way if you are wise enough that is to stick around to the end and appreciate the voicings and effortless-sounding chord progressions that he seems to pluck out of thin air at will and modernises as he goes along for kicks and that extra layer of finesse. Stephen Graham
Tags: Albums and EPs