Jazz pianist Will Bonness is one of the young lions of the up-and-coming Winnipeg musicians that have arrived as a result of the U of M school of music’s jazz studies program.
It is thanks to Steve Kirby, who plays bass on Subtle Fire (Bonness’ much anticipated solo debut), that this program has hit the stride it has. Indeed, it is Kirby who, through this program, and also the “Monday Night Hang,” has raised the calibre of Winnipeg musicianship to what this reviewer considers world-class levels.
Subtle Fire, however, is Bonness’s show. Indeed, Kirby is content for the most part to provide a solid backing while the pianist, along with drummer Terreon Gully, provide the show. Their interaction is symbiotic; the two musicians are so in tune that one would think they are Siamese twins sharing one mind.
The musical tone of the album ranges from the subtle whisper of the opening piece, a cover of Romberg/Hammerstein’s “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise,” to the joyful swing of Bonness original “Kindling,” a track on which Kirby is finally heard to excellent advantage. Kirby’s ability to craft a solo is outstanding and well worth waiting to hear.
Shifts of time and tempo characterize Bonness’s clear debt to McCoy Tyner and a long lineage of predecessors. And Gully is right with him throughout. When both take off, they somehow always arrive together at the end of those sojourns.
Neither of these musicians takes a back seat to anyone, anywhere, which makes this CD an absolute must-have.
*.5 out of **