*** A jaunty pop sensibility runs through much of Spinning The Circle, which speaks more to David Witham's long employment with George Benson than it does his studies with pianist Jaki Byard. Balancing the tendency toward rhythmic vamps and ebullient themes is a moodier side expressed through electronics and yearning ballads. It's an effective mix, if a bit formulaic.
On the uptempo side, the recording gets off to a raucous start with the clatter of digital noise over a funky Scott Amendola drum pattern. What better way to set the table for a distorted workout by guest guitarist Nels Cline? The presence of Amendola, Cline and steel guitarist Greg Leisz set the album up as what might be called "the payback recording," where high-profile friends show up to help out a lesser-known but equally gifted buddy. Witham makes great use out of Cline and Leisz. Cline adds to the electric ambience on "Afrobeat," while Leisz's steel sounds sweet on the bolero "Con Quien" and resolute on the gritty "N.O. Rising." Of the moodier compositions, "Momentuum" is the most memorable, with its tension-filled mix of lap steel, accordion, bass and clarinet.