The fourth album, Is This a Dream? by the pianist and composer Will Bonness, is an outstanding recording, informed by big-hearted originals and standards performed with brazenly romantic beauty. While each of the works is conventional in form, by turns tender and ardently lyrical, and feature the pianist’s favourite vocalist Jocelyn Gould, the head-turners are the seven (of nine numbers) that feature the scintillating young clarinetist Virginia MacDonald, with the inimitable alto saxophonist Allison Au doubling up with MacDonald on the final track, Cole Porter’s Don’t Fence Me In.
Bonness is a pianist with a naturally poetic bent of mind. In his pianism chromatic notes sigh – and often gush effusively – the harmonic cushioning always falling where you least expect it to. This often makes for the kind of surprise you expect, but never know when it will issue from his fluid right-and-left hand combinations. This is what makes his originals – particularly Round and Round and Contraption – full of great tunefulness. Both songs also feature MacDonald who, with her expressively woody clarinet sound, adds emotional depth and rhetorical eloquence to Bonness’ already-rich harmonic language.
On the album’s finale the music reaches quite another level as Bonness’ score includes an alto saxophone, Au, who responds with glowing tones and the liquid grace of her notes. The album’s superb repertoire is further embellished by bassists Daniel Fortin and Andrew Goodlett and the irrepressible drummer Fabio Ragnelli.