Dan Willis and Velvet Gentlemen / Dan Willis

The Satie Project

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Erik Satie's music is timeless and beautiful, but can it stand up to interpretation by downtown New York jazzbos? In the hands of Dan Willis & Velvet Gentlemen the answer is a resounding "YES!" Willis' arrangements are as brilliant as they are varied. There are some straightforward readings (as on most of the Nocturnes) right alongside some pretty inventive and even daring ones. Second Gymnopedie starts as an accordion-sax-drums trio, then slides almost imperceptibly to a guitar-trumpet-drums trio. John Hollenbeck's alway engaging drumwork ties it all together, but the really amazing thing is how much the tune now resembles Miles Davis' "All Blues!" At the other end of the Miles spectrum, Willis makes I Idylle sound like an outtake from Agharta with its use of distorted electric guitar and electric trumpet. The percussion and arrangement on First Gnossienne give it a bit of a Middle Eastern flavor, and yet Satie's melodies shine through no matter what the setting. The Satie Project is a great album that simultaneously celebrates Satie's vision and takes his music where you never thought it could go. The playing is excellent throughout. Well done.

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