I believe that Vancouver BC’s Cellar Records is doing more to showcase young talent than any other current label. Pianist Spike Willner’s newest Cellar effort finds him covering classic compositions by two Hall of Famers, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington. Willner is assisted here by two highly sought after colleagues, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Joe Farnsworth. From Monk's brilliance and individuality comes the familiar “Well You Needn’t” and “Pannonica”, and the slightly less well known “Let’s Cool One” and “Eronel” (try spelling it backwards). The Ellington selections should have recognized Billy Strayhorn in the album’s title as well because he wrote two without Duke, “UMMG” and “Intimacy of the Blues”. Duke, on his own, gave us two rarities here, “Gypsy Without A Song” and “Le Sucrier Velour”. An old pop hit, “Wonderful! Wonderful!”, is also included here. Perhaps it was chosen because it describes all of the music on this date. Willner avoids the flashy and fancy in favor of playing and improvising on these “greatest hits” with total honesty, charm, and always ever present swing. This is, from note one, ideal piano trio jazz in the best of that long honored tradition.
Cellar; 2022; times not indicated.