by Nolan DeBuke
Guitarist Ian Wardenski is a part of the new generation of guitarist that is highlighting original material that includes a vocalist as a vital part of the instrumental sound with prodigious results. Wardenski is a studied musician. Beginning at fifteen years old, he ensued his musical studies under the guidance of John Lahovski, Peter Sittler, and Frank DiBussolo. His journey continued with Wardenski graduating from Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, CA., with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. In the fall of 2004, Wardenski received a Master of Music in Music Theory from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. Wardenski completed his Ph.D. in Music Theory at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Currently Wardenski is Chair of Performing Arts, and is an Associate Professor of Music at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, MD. He teaches courses in music theory, sight singing and ear training, jazz harmony, jazz history, and guitar.
Wardenski is certainly an erudite musician. For his debut album, Wardenski collaborated with like minded musicians Tim Powell (soprano and tenor sax), Jerry Ascione (piano), Amy Shook (bass), Frank Russo (drums) and Tamara Tucker who utilizes her voice as a wordless instrument on select tracks. The title track “Collective Thoughts,” is a perfect example of this approach. Wardenski writes with a muscularity in his music. His harmonic aesthetic is warm and complex with colorizations that reflect the modern jazz idiom. Powell offers a fluid solo after the melody is stated. While bassist Shook, known for her work with many of the DIVA ensembles and the Fred Hughes Trio offers a solid backbone rhythm, locking tightly with her other counterpart in the Hughes Trio, Russo. Wardenski has a darkly hued modern tone with nimble lines and a pleasing box sound. Ascione flurries with authority on the ivories as Russo takes to task a stirring drum solo as the ensemble heads back to the head for a toothsome statement of the melody with a strong ending.
A strong composition on the album is “Conversing.” On this tune, Powell and Wardenski harmonize the melody adding to its impact. The two elicit a strong conversation as Russo and Shook punctuate the song with meaningful hits, pushing and pulling the ebb and flow of the rhythm keeping the tune driving and funky. Once again, Ascione lays down and adept solo. Wardenski offers a blistering solo with lightning speed. Powell hits hard, while Russo texturizes and tenderizes all the while cooking with gas. This time its Shook in the solo seat, her attack is solid and her intonation flawless. The group comes together once again for a punctuated cadence.
Wardenski offers a modernality to his compositions that augur well with his playing style. The collaborative heart of each player on this date is evident from the get-go, lending a polished listen throughout. This might be Wardenski’s debut album, but this fine player has been honing his skills on guitar and with his pen, in a meaningful fashion. Collective Thoughts brings into focus a new name on the scene, and one who is certainly one to watch.