Swing of the Pendulum
Independent Release, 2023
By Jeff Cebulski | ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2
Saxophonist John Wojciechowski, one of the stellar Chicago-area horn players, has earned a reputation for consistent excellence as a leader on three albums, a member of several quality ensembles, and a secondary and college educator. A look as his most recent recording and his accompanying friends—the elite rhythm team of bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Dana Hall, along with another respected, under-noticed veteran on piano, Xavier Davis—makes clear his place in the vaunted list of Chicago’s finest is quite solid.
The newest album, Swing of the Pendulum, is a neo-classic, straight-up affair that calls to mind some of the great influencers of post bop performance, people like Coltrane, Dexter, and, of course, Vonski.
And the themes prevalent—suggesting the passing of time and a need for reflection—adds emotional depth to the proceedings.
The album’s opening is timely enough: “The Leaves Fall to the Ground” immediately calls Coltrane’s quartet to mind, with some of the phrasing mirroring “Resolution” from A Love Supreme. But the tonal shifts, as the music flows from a solemn start to a modal-infused, intense display, communicate something less rhetorical and more joyful, with Davis being all Tyner and Hall channeling Elvin. John’s clear, non-strident expression exudes confidence and educated depth.
The title composition, with its tick-tock beat, seems to express the inevitable passing of time, but in a musician’s context. Life and music go on. Wojciechowski’s tenor is particularly witty here, with a sampling of Wayne Shorter included in his lyrical solo.
Sommers, for all his stalwart support, gets some upfront moments during three mid-album numbers. “Peripheral Vision” begins with a jaunty, woody solo that leads to Woj’s soprano statement and an eloquent, swinging Davis solo. Then, a lengthy but non-boring “Bass Intro” sets the mood for “Minds Eye,” starting with a lower registered Sommers utterance that precedes another Coltrane-ish excursion, with Davis being especially Tyner-like early on. John’s playing veers into something Breckeresque, not a shabby association. Hall’s pounding and thrashing adds supportive zest, as Davis suspends the melody with repetitive measures to let Dana have his own moment.
The two ballads reflect dual poignancies, one of reflection and one of suspended intimacy. “Past Reflections” features Wojciechowski’s flute prowess and a stately Davis addition during a lovely, subtly Latin melodic musing that suggests good memories; “The Greater the Distance” is a smooth blues that morphs into hopefulness. Once again, Davis answers John’s opening comment with an alternating expression, light and optimistically moving.
The finale, “Lexicon,” begins with a repetitive Davis refrain that becomes layered with the saxophonist’s colloquial remarks as the pianist deftly comps. The ensemble, as an organic unit, really clicks on this piece.
With A Swing of the Pendulum, the richness of John Wojciechowski’s sax playing, combined with the formidable talent in support, offer the fan of modern jazz another treat from four musicians who cannot fail to carry on a grand tradition with new, thoughtful manifestations.
John Wojciechowski, Swing of the Pendulum
Independent Release, 2023
John Wojciechowski, tenor and soprano saxophones, flute
Xavier Davis, piano
Clark Sommers, bass
Dana Hall, drums
About Jeff Cebulski
Jeff Cebulski, who lives in Chicago, is a retired English educator (both secondary and collegiate) and longtime jazz aficionado. His career in jazz includes radio programs at two stations in southeast Wisconsin, an online show on Kennesaw State’s (GA) Owl Radio from 2007 until 2015, and review/feature writing for Chicago Jazz Magazine since 2016, including his column "Jazz With Mr. C". He has interviewed many jazz artists, including Joshua Redman, Charles Lloyd, Dave Holland, John Beasley, and Chris Brubeck, as well as several Chicago-based players. Jeff is a member of the Jazz Journalists Association. Contact Jeff at email@example.com