Ian Wardenski Quintet – Unfoldings (ENG review)

Ian Wardenski Quintet

Ian Wardenski is a composer who defies classification and is utterly fascinating due to the quality of his compositions. Here on this album, surrounded by the singer Tamara Tucker who impresses with her wonderful soprano voice, from the very first movement, this album, comprising 5 movements, is unmistakably a jazz album, albeit one I would rather describe as Jazz Opera, which also borrows from rock to our greatest delight, disrupting our brains. On the alto saxophone, Mercedes Beckman, on the piano Savino Palumbo, on bass Amy Shook, and on drums Frank Russo. Wardenski’s guitar riffs sometimes evoke thoughts of a Jeff Beck fully embracing his rock origins, which is for the best, as these compositions are made of non-contradictory contrasts.

Ian began his musical studies at the age of 15 under the guidance of John Lahovski, Peter Sittler, and Frank DiBussolo. During this time, Ian attended the Creative Music Institute in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, where he studied music theory, composition, and improvisation. He graduated from Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California, with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. During his time there, he studied music theory/ear training with Denis Moreen and Michael Schmitz, and classical guitar with Richard Patterson and David Dueñas.

In the fall of 2004, Ian earned a Master of Music degree in Music Theory from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During his time there, he studied music theory/ear training with Robert Shankovich, and classical guitar with Thomas Kikta and Aaron Shearer, author of the Learning the Classic Guitar series. Wardenski completed his Ph.D. in Music Theory at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, where he studied music theory/ear training with Steven Strunk, author of Harmony (New Grove Dictionary of Jazz), Linear Intervallic Patterns in Jazz Repertory, and Harmony of Early Bop: A Layered Approach. In addition to his work with Strunk, Ian studied music theory with Paul Taylor and Andrew Simpson, and classical guitar with Richard Miller. These last sentences from his biography aim to give you a deeper understanding of the complexity of his work which, indeed, may not appeal to everyone but will be a delight for musicians and great lovers of contemporary jazz.

Wardenski’s attraction to angular and pointillistic melodic constructions is evident on his third album, “Unfoldings,” a five-movement suite composed by Wardenski, based on a set of pitch classes that give rise to the main melodic material. The main theme is presented in various configurations (structural, non-structural, inverted, retrograde, augmented, diminished), showcasing the possibilities of unfolding a melody through a multi-movement composition.

We have more and more albums that are equally exciting, albums that open the mind, offering as many sonic palettes as such a composer proposes as intellectual journeys. It takes a vast culture and as much rigor to achieve excellence in this kind of composition, served here by extremely talented musicians, making this album absolutely indispensable. It’s difficult to listen to another music after this album; you need time to digest all that you have heard, leave some space, leave room for dreaming…

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, April 10th 2024

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