Erik Satie's music is timeless and beautiful, but can it stand up to interpretation by downtown New York jazzbos? In the hands of Dan Willis & Velvet Gentlemen the answer is a resounding "YES!" Willis' arrangements are as brilliant as they are varied. There are some straightforward readings (as on most of the Nocturnes) right alongside some pretty inventive and even daring ones. Second Gymnopedie starts as an accordion-sax-drums trio, then slides almost imperceptibly to a guitar-trumpet-drums trio. John Hollenbeck's alway engaging drumwork ties it all together, but the really amazing thing is how much the tune now resembles Miles Davis' "All Blues!"
Matt Mitchell, a 2015 recipient of the prestigious Doris Duke Impact Award, is one of the most in-demand pianists in jazz. As a member of Tim Bernes Snakeoil, the Dave Douglas Quintet, Rudresh Mahanthappas Bird Calls, John Hollenbecks Large Ensemble, and the Darius Jones Quartet, among many others, he has played an integral role on a number of the most critically-acclaimed releases of the last few years. Highly regarded for bringing contemporary classical music influences to his playing, his debut as a leader, Fiction (Pi 2013), a duo with drummer Ches Smith, was described by All About Jazz as “… huge quantities of brain candy, akin to a shot of adrenaline that will keep the willing listener on the edge of his or her seat.”