For his third disc as a leader, Dan Willis offers a stunning array of originals while playing numerous different instruments, sometimes on the same song. With a potent supporting cast of musicians, including drummer John Hollenbeck, guitarist Pete McCann, keyboardist Ron Oswanski and trumpeter/flugelhornist Chuck MacKinnon, Willis leads his band through his inspired compositions, which the leader says were influenced in part by French composer Erik Satie. Yet each work is a musical adventure with many different influences; for example, "Place of Enlightenment" has a droning accordion, blistering rock guitar and an overdubbed reed section that swells as the piece reaches its climax. "Door to Yesterday" is a more accessible ballad with Willis leading the way on tenor, while the lush harmony of the introduction to "I'm Not the Reverend" is very moving. Willis' ominous "3:10 Local" would have anyone looking over his shoulder late at night, and "Gentle Soul" uses a combination of instruments heard infrequently in a jazz setting. With Velvet Gentlemen, Dan Willis has produced a powerful album that will easily stand the test of time.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden