“A very able contributor to the lineage of great jazz bassists of the past and present, Matt Dwonszyk’s first recording as a leader clearly demonstrates that he is cultivating a very unique voice in the music and is always striving to subject the music to reevaluation and innovation. He has established himself as a keeper of the flame and will surely shape the music for years to come."

-Todd Coolman 

"Music is very impressive, great playing!"

-Nat Reeves 

"Matt Dwonszyk is one of the most creative young musicians on the jazz scene today. He plays with a big heart and very big ears."

-Bennie Wallace 

"Matt Dwonszyk is an old soul. His playing and musical conception transmit a deep feeling of swing and joy."

-Doug Weiss

Dwonz's Wonderful World

Review by Ken Laster 

 

This is the debut album by Hartford (now New York) bassist Matt Dwonszyk. Matt is joined with some of his college colleagues with which he has developed a musical bond over nearly a decade. Besides being a vehicle for Dwonszyk’s front and center bass playing, he shows off his ample composing and arranging skills.

The opening number, Pecan Delight was inspired by Mom’s pecan pie. It’s a sweet introduction to the tunes that lie ahead. This swinging composition in the hard-bop tradition would be a natural fit on any Jazz Messenger album. The arrangements are spot-on and the ensemble playing is tight. Jonathan Barber on drums, kicks the rhythm ahead giving this tune an upbeat toe-tapping feel.

Theocity (Give and Take) takes on a more modern, complex compositional approach and has all the soloists stepping up to the challenge. Cuban Breeze has Dwonszyk showing off an intricate Latin beat underneath the tight horn arrangements and burning solos by trumpeter Josh Bruneau which is paired beautifully with Steve Davis’ smooth as silk sound on trombone. Weak Incentive begins with Renfro’s haunting guitar solo transforming into a sweet samba beat.

Saxophonist Jovan Alexandre adds a touch of freedom to stretch beyond the straight ahead foundation of Matt’s tunes. Taber Gable is a perfect accompaniment in his role in the rhythm section on piano, while showing a tasteful understatement in his solos. Taber lays down a beautiful solo on the ballad Irene. He also adds a composition to his friend titled Dr. Dwonz. Guitarist Andrew Renfro adds a his unique tone and esoteric sound to the ensemble.

The title track is a very hip take on the standard What a Wonderful World. Dwonszyk’s funky beat adds some bounce to this Louis Armstrong favorite. It’s an arrangement of a classic tune that would have put a gigantic smile on Pops’ face for sure. Shenel Johns delivers a soulful reading of the joyful, optimistic lyrics. It’s a delightful ending to a strong first album by this young promising artist.

-Ken Laster

Matt Dwonszyk

Wonderful World

(Truth Revolution Recording Collective)

Review by Scott Yanow 

Wonderful World is the excellent debut recording by Matt Dwonszyk, featuring not only his bass playing and leadership of a top-notch modern mainstream jazz group but nine of his originals.

For this project, the bassist gathered together a group of musicians who he has known for up to ten years. Their familiarity with each other’s playing shows in the way that they blend together, communicate spontaneously, and in their formation of an attractive group sound. Some of the selections focus on the rhythm section (which includes guitarist Andrew Renfroe, pianist Taber Gable, drummer Jonathan Barber, and occasionally percussionists Jorge Fuentes and Ed Fast) while others feature three horns (trumpeter Joshua Bruneau, trombonist Steve Davis and tenor-saxophonist Jovan Alexandre). There are also three fine vocals from Shenel Johns. Dwonszyk wrote all of the songs but Gable’s “Dr. Dwonz,” the traditional hymn “My Soul,” and “What A Wonderful World.”

The set begins with “Pecan’s Delight", the music has the feel of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers due to the voicings of the three horns, Bruneau hinting at Freddie Hubbard, and the song being a solidly swinging hard bop number. The piece was named after Dwonszyk’s mother’s legendary pecan pie. The piece pays tribute to her consistent support of his musical career. 

Each selection has its memorable moments. “Weak Incentive” is notable for including some of pianist Gable’s finest playing of the set. “A Year And A Day” (a tribute to the bassist’s late father that was written a year after his passing) is a thoughtful original ballad that features Renfroe’s laidback guitar. “Dr. Dwonz” has a particularly infectious theme, gives the rhythm section an opportunity to cook, and includes a rewarding solo from the leader. Dwonszyk plays a catchy bass pattern throughout much of “The Academy” which has a simple and effective melody along with excellent spots for guitarist Renfroe and the muscular tenor of Alexandre. The original was written for the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts where the bassist was fully exposed to jazz.“Theodicy” is a philosophical term which asks “If there is an almighty God, why do bad things happen?” A medium-tempo jazz waltz, “Theodicy (Give And Take)” features a fine solo by Davis and a stirring tradeoff between Alexandre and Bruneau. 

Of all of the originals, “Prospect Park” has the best chance to catch on. Named after a park in Brooklyn that the bassist often frequents and considers a quiet refuge from the struggles of life, it has a memorable melody swung at a slow-medium tempo and an excellent vocal by Shenel Johns. “Cuban Breeze” features speedy patterns from the bassist, a Latin tinge, excellent contributions by the percussionists, and hot trumpet and trombone solos. “Irene,” written in memory of a major storm, reflects on the strength and power of nature; it showcases the rhythm section. The traditional hymn “My Soul,” a piece that expresses the determination to continue on even when life is hard, is a showcase for Shenel Johns. The set concludes with a modernized and surprisingly medium-tempo version of “What A Wonderful World” which emphasizes the fact that, despite all of its difficulties, the world with its music is still a wonderful place to be.

Wonderful World is a strong start to Matt Dwonszyk's solo career. I look forward to his future projects.

 

-Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including The Great Jazz Guitarists and Jazz On Record 1917-76