Pianist Brad Whiteley has worked with a diverse array of artists from Regina Spektor to Dave Liebman, not to mention his role in the pit band of Broadway's "Avenue Q." Somehow, Whiteley has found the time to compose and arrange 11 superb tunes, and he wastes no time in revving it up on his excellent new album, "Presence." While his keyboards are front and center, Whiteley leaves plenty of room for his bandmates - Tom Guarna on guitar, saxophonist Michael Eaton, bassist Matt Pavolka, and Kenneth Salters on drums.
The opener, "Dusk," is nothing less than a riveting ride. "Sunset Park" begins as a fairly typical blues tune, but once the sax and guitar kick in, watch out. Infectious riffs give way to some great solos by Whiteley, Guarna and Eaton. The title track features one of the key elements of the album: a beautiful blending of Guarna's guitar and Eaton's sax. While most of the album is straight-ahead jazz, these guys don't hesitate to venture into avant-garde territory on the highly atmospheric "Dawn."