Review by Scott Yanow

Wonderful World is the excellent debut recording by Matt Dwonszyk, featuring not only his bass playing and leadership of a top-notch modern mainstream jazz group but nine of his originals.For this project, the bassist gathered together a group of musicians who he has known for up to ten years. Their familiarity with each other’s playing shows in the way that they blend together, communicate spontaneously, and in their formation of an attractive group sound. Some of the selections focus on the rhythm section (which includes guitarist Andrew Renfroe, pianist Taber Gable, drummer Jonathan Barber, and occasionally percussionists Jorge Fuentes and Ed Fast) while others feature three horns (trumpeter Joshua Bruneau, trombonist Steve Davis and tenor-saxophonist Jovan Alexandre). There are also three fine vocals from Shenel Johns. Dwonszyk wrote all of the songs but Gable’s “Dr. Dwonz,” the traditional hymn “My Soul,” and “What A Wonderful World.”

​The set begins with “Pecan’s Delight”, the music has the feel of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers due to the voicings of the three horns, Bruneau hinting at Freddie Hubbard, and the song being a solidly swinging hard bop number. The piece was named after Dwonszyk’s mother’s legendary pecan pie. The piece pays tribute to her consistent support of his musical career. 

Each selection has its memorable moments. “Weak Incentive” is notable for including some of pianist Gable’s finest playing of the set. “A Year And A Day” (a tribute to the bassist’s late father that was written a year after his passing) is a thoughtful original ballad that features Renfroe’s laidback guitar. “Dr. Dwonz” has a particularly infectious theme, gives the rhythm section an opportunity to cook, and includes a rewarding solo from the leader. Dwonszyk plays a catchy bass pattern throughout much of “The Academy” which has a simple and effective melody along with excellent spots for guitarist Renfroe and the muscular tenor of Alexandre. The original was written for the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts where the bassist was fully exposed to jazz.“Theodicy” is a philosophical term which asks “If there is an almighty God, why do bad things happen?” A medium-tempo jazz waltz, “Theodicy (Give And Take)” features a fine solo by Davis and a stirring tradeoff between Alexandre and Bruneau. 

Of all of the originals, “Prospect Park” has the best chance to catch on. Named after a park in Brooklyn that the bassist often frequents and considers a quiet refuge from the struggles of life, it has a memorable melody swung at a slow-medium tempo and an excellent vocal by Shenel Johns. “Cuban Breeze” features speedy patterns from the bassist, a Latin tinge, excellent contributions by the percussionists, and hot trumpet and trombone solos. “Irene,” written in memory of a major storm, reflects on the strength and power of nature; it showcases the rhythm section. The traditional hymn “My Soul,” a piece that expresses the determination to continue on even when life is hard, is a showcase for Shenel Johns. The set concludes with a modernized and surprisingly medium-tempo version of “What A Wonderful World” which emphasizes the fact that, despite all of its difficulties, the world with its music is still a wonderful place to be. Wonderful World is a strong start to Matt Dwonszyk’s solo career. I look forward to his future projects.  

-Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including The Great Jazz Guitarists and Jazz On Record 1917-76