Willis Delony

Double Dance: Classical and Jazz Connections II

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The small Centaur label, with headquarters in Baton Rouge, LA, often offers recordings that show something of what's happening in classical music between the American coasts. This disc by Louisiana pianist Willis Delony furnishes a good example. The study of jazz has been thoroughly institutionalized in American music schools, and a substantial body of music now reflects a cross-pollination between jazz and the concert music tradition that surrounds it. Delony, a professor at Louisiana State University, performs a selection of jazz/classical fusions that vary in their approaches, both pleasing the casual listener and rewarding close hearings. The two preludes of Bill Dobbins have the elevated mood of Chopin's preludes, but overflow with jazz details such as improvised passages and the construction of the E flat major Prelude (track 1) on the harmonic pattern of Pennies from Heaven. Perhaps the most fun comes from the Jazz Dance Suite (1989) of David Baker, which draws heavily on classic jazz styles but pushes them with dissonant details that suggest classical compositional control. The Three Reflections of French composer Joseph Makholm seem less focused than the other music on the album but do offer a distinctive perspective on the fusion, and two works by John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet make an ideal finale, forecasting many developments that have occurred since the quartet's heyday. Delony's performances are relaxed and obviously devoted to this music, easily moving between composed and improvisatory passages. Double Dance is one of two discs devoted to Delony's Classical and Jazz Connections.

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