Toronto based pianist, composer, arranger and producer Tom Szczesniak has released his debut recording as leader; Waltz For Bill, an eleven track, straight ahead jazz record that features a large cast of supporting characters.
“Something I had been thinking about doing for the last fifteen years,” says Szczesniak, a forty year veteran of the recording industry.
The recording comes off as a small sampling of the music that this pianist can take command of and make his own. From straight ahead jazz piano trio tunes such as the tribute to Bill Evans “Waltz For Bill”, the fiery and dynamic “What Is This Thing Called Love” and the elegant “Laura” to the skillfully arranged numbers with string orchestrations. There are five compositions with strings, including the sumptuous “Someone to Watch Over You” with guest vocalist Cal Dodd. The nineteen member string orchestra is utilized in fine fashion, never overbearing, always providing a backdrop of layered beauty that enhances the elegance of the standards and the featured artists.
A tune that is somewhat out of place is the jazz rock fusion number written by Doug Riley, “Dinosaurus” featuring Szczesniak on Hammond B3 and a duo of electric guitars by soloist’s Rob Piltch and Bob Mann. The featured soloists are many, Michael Stuart, Vern Dorge, Les Alt, Colleen Cook, Neil Deland and Doug Mallory. The rhythm section is primarily Scott Alexander and Bob McLaren, bass and drums respectively. Neil Swainson (bass) and Stephan Szczesniak (drums) are the guest rhythm section on “Someone To Watch Over You”. Tom Szczesniak and Waltz For Bill may not be for everyone, but if you like excellent piano and grand productions then you may find Waltz For Bill a listening pleasure.
Tracks: What Is This Thing Called Love; I Wish I Knew; Waltz for Bill; All The Things You Are; Solar; Lament for Doc/I’ll Be Seeing You; Dinosaurus; Embraceable You; Someone To Watch Over You; Laura; Lindy’s Song.
Personnel: Bass: Scott Alexander and Neil Swainson, Drums: Bob McLaren and Stephan Szczesniak, Saxophone: Michael Stuart and Vern Dorge, Vocals: Michael Stuart, Doug Mallory and Cal Dodd, Guitar: Rob Piltch and Bob Mann, Flute: Les Allt, Clarinet: Colleen Cook, French Horn: Neil Deland and an 18 piece string orchestra.
Tom Szczesniak – Official Website: www.tomszcz.com
Label: Szczmith Music
Release date: December 2011
Reviewed by: Paul J. Youngman