Will Bonness: piano, arrangements
Virginia MacDonald: clarinet
Jocelyn Gould: voice (2, 4, 8)
Allison Au: alto saxophone (9)
Daniel Fortin: bass (1-4, 6-9)
Andrew Goodlett: bass (1, 7)
Fabio Ragnelli: drums
Is This a Dream?, the fourth album by pianist Will Bonness, takes listeners on an introspective journey through a range of emotions and mental states, using unique and varying combinations of instruments to set different moods. The cover art, inspired by the Rorschach inkblot test, along with the suggestive song titles, invites listeners to create their own story for each track. Through a combination of wordless vocals, clarinet, and arco bass, along with the familiar piano trio, each composition sets a distinct atmosphere and showcases Will’s musical voice.
Following up on the success of his JUNO-winning album Change of Plans, Bonness drew inspiration for the new album from his time in Toronto, where he met and collaborated with clarinetist Virginia MacDonald, bassist Daniel Fortin, and saxophonist Allison Au. Completing the ensemble are vocalist Jocelyn Gould and drummer Fabio Ragnelli, both of whom were featured on his previous record. Is This a Dreampresents a blend of original compositions by Will Bonness and covers by the great composers Hoagy Carmichael, Billy Strayhorn, Cole Porter, and Tom Harrell.
The winding, off-kilter rhythms and melodies of Round and Round are infused with Brazilian influences and feature a unique blend of bowed bass and clarinet. This contrasts beautifully with the poignant pop-ballad arrangement of I Get Along Without You Very Well, featuring Jocelyn Gould on vocals. Bonness displays his virtuoso pianism on the exciting and complex samba Rapture, arranged for piano trio. Andrew Goodlett plays up in the bass’s high register on his arco intro to Reverie, and you could be forgiven for mistaking the bass for a cello! Odd Serenade features an odd yet singable melody with intricate counterpoint between the clarinet and vocals, as well as engaging solos by MacDonald and Bonness. The album concludes with a swinging rendition of Cole Porter’s Western classic Don’t Fence Me In, featuring an appearance by alto saxophonist Allison Au.
Is This a Dream, with its colorful harmonies, contrasting textures, diversity of genres, and virtuoso performances, has something for every jazz listener.
Release Date: Friday, June 16th 2023