Review by Brad Walseth
It is often surprising to hear the talent we have lurking about our fair city, and saxophonist Rob Denty is no exception. His debut album as a leader, "Round and Round" is a satisfying release, featuring a warm and clean recording, great cover artwork, solid playing and several interesting original songs, as well as a couple well-arranged lesser known covers.
Denty is a talented player, who has obviously used his experience playing with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, as well as performances with Joe Lovano, Doc Severinsen, Clark Terry, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and more, in order to hone his abilities both as a soloist and as a composer. Backed here by an exciting rhythm section of Tom Mulvenna on drums and Cory Biggerstaff on bass, and joined by Tom Vaitsas on electric piano or organ on most numbers, Denty plays with self assurance and impressive technique.
The burning opener, "Right Hand Sam" starts things off right with Denty and Vaitsas soloing nicely over the hard swinging rhythm section. Biggerstaff also adds a tasty solo, and both he and Mulvenna are given the spotlight on a fairly straight ahead trio version of "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You." Meanwhile "Tim's Mutiny" showcases Denty in '50s Coltrane mode over a galloping bass, drums and keys, "before his solo melts into a reverb-drenched fadeaway, interestingly leaving drummer Mulvenna (Tim) to solo out.
Denty admits to being influenced by a wide range of musical styles, including Indian and Greek music, traditional jazz, free jazz, and even classical and popular music. The 10:13 "For B.G." centers the album with a composition that seems as much free as raga. The title track features a memorable theme and some graceful solo work by Vaitsas on his Rhodes that provides an appropriate counterpart to Denty's airy flights.
It's great to hear Vaitsas' chewy organ work on the bluesy "Sir Charles," which pleasantly surprises with its ever-changing shape. Meanwhile, "Lucky to Be Me" (from On the Town) highlights Denty's engaging way with a ballad, while Vaitsas again adds some pleasing work on the electric piano. "Under the Doorway" is a great way to end this enjoyable album, featuring some exceptional saxophone work, clever changes and dynamic group interplay. Fans of straight ahead jazz with a twist will be delighted by this recording which marks Denty as a young player/composer to watch for.