Pianist David Witham has worked in many settings and musicians, including maintaining the position of pianist/musical director for contemporary jazz guitarist George Benson for over twenty years. But other sides of his creativity surface on Spinning the Circle, proving, once again, why one shouldn’t pigeon-hole a musician into any specific category.
Like the refraction of light by a prism, many of Witham’s colors are vibrantly displayed in the recording--each distinct and compelling--showing a depth in a variety of styles. Interstellar explorations are envisioned on “The Neon,” powered by sonic bass/drum beats and electronics, in a hip club motif. “Who Knows” quickly returns the listener to earth with its peaceful ballad, and those familiar may also recognize bassist Jaco Pastorius’ “Three Views of a Secret” hidden within the melody. Or take the mellowness of “N.O. Rising,” an uplifting dedication to the first city of jazz--New Orleans--and its post-Katrina efforts.
The high production is also benefited by significant band members including guitar wizard Nels Cline and drummer Scott Amendola, both of whom provide memorable performances. But lesser-known and equally talented contributions make things all the more rewarding such as Greg Leisz’s haunting steel guitar on “Con Quien,” Luis Conte’s percussion touches on “The Circle,” and Jay Anderson’s muscular upright bass on the pensively abstract “Momentuum,” as Witham provides effective moods with an accordion. Saxophonist Jon Crosse plays a variety of reeds, with just the right amount of fire or ice, to fit the need. At over twelve minutes in length “Afrobeat” reaches a feverish pinnacle as the entire band gives it their all, in a creative stew of acoustic and electronics.
Spinning the Circle is not a just a platform for Witham’s playing abilities--which he clearly possesses--but also of his wide interests and resounding skills as a writer, arranger, and composer. These prismatic hues come together nicely in a recording that is intriguing from beginning to end.
By Mark F. Turner