“What Are The Odds?” Review
by Kyle Simper, All About Jazz
Even though a lot of recorded music relies on “comfort zone” time signatures like 4/4 or 3/ 4, many musicians still like exploring more unusual time signatures. Probably the most notable example of this rhythmic experimentation is Dave Brubeck’s landmark 1959 album Time Out. Considering that this is one of the most popular albums in jazz shows that music in unusual key signatures can be very appealing. This is also the case with guitarist Dennis Winge. His album, What Are The Odds?, features an eclectic assortment of songs written in a variety of different time signatures, and the experiment paid off.
Dennis Winge is a guitarist based in Ithaca, New York, whose experience is as diverse as the time signatures featured on this album. His musical projects include a jazz group, rock cover bands, a blues band, and sacred chanting. Winge also provides guitar instruction, and he has a YouTube channel. For this album, he is joined by August Bish on bass and Kevin Cheli on drums. Along with the core group, What Are The Odds? also features guest appearances by Rob Weinberger on saxophone and flute and Michele Gordon on flute.
The subtitle of the album is “odd meters and other types of fun,” which is a fairly accurate description of what’s in store. There’s quite a bit of variety in the tempo department, but Winge’s diverse musical background also comes across in full force on this double album. What Are The Odds? is filled with a wide range of styles, including fusion, blues, funk, and world music influences as well.
Winge wrote all of the material on the album, and each song is well crafted. However, he is a guitarist first and foremost, and the guitar work here is exceptional. His tone varies depending on the context of the music. Some songs, like “Snowfall Romance,” have a very straight-ahead guitar sound, while compositions like “Move Over” have a driving fusion sound with just the right amount of distortion.
The material on What Are The Odds? also features a variety of global flavors. “Ses Vier,” for example, is inspired by African rhythms. Rob Weinberger’s sax along with Winge’s guitar provide a funky groove that seems somewhat reminiscent of Ghanaian highlife music. Songs like “Khanda Blues” or “Middle Earth’s Cry” offer an interesting mixture of jazz and Indian music. The album also includes selections with Latin and Celtic elements as well.
Although Winge’s compositions do often venture away from the beaten jazz paths, he doesn’t abandon traditional forms altogether. “Up Every 24 Blues,” for example, features a straightforward blues in 4/4. Okay, there are still a few unexpected twists here. The song modulates every 24 bars, remaining true to the album’s playful quality.
What Are The Odds? is a diverse collection of music that lifts the spirits. It’s intelligent without being pretentious. Also, like any other good art form, whether it’s film or poetry, there are more things to be discovered with repeated listening. Probably the most important aspect of this album, though, is how it reminds us that good music can also be good fun.