Listen To Your Friends

From - June 28, 2007

By Paul Viapiano

One of the advantages of being an artist, of any sort, is being able to live in close proximity to other creative people, to exchange ideas, get another take on things, see the world not just through another’s work but to see that work being germinated, fed and nourished as they grow and evolve, to come to understand what motivates one to devote a life to creation.

I’ve known Dave Witham for the past seven years and had been following his career for a few years before that, when he was one of the pianists, along with John Beasley, in bassist John Patitucci’s first group, which ended up recording John’s self-titled debut CD for GRP Records. Dave had also been in demand as a session and touring player eventually forming long-term relationships with recording artists like Jose Feliciano and George Benson that continue to this day. In fact, Dave is George Benson’s music director/conductor and heads a band full of great musicians whenever George heads out on tour.

I met him in 2000 when he decided to try something different and signed on to play in the rhythm section ofThe Lion King, the Disney musical that parked itself at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood for 2 ½ years. Now, seven years later we get the chance to play again every night for the hit musical, Wicked, also sitting down at the Pantages for an extended, and hopefully, multi-year run.

Dave’s new CD, Spinning The Circle, is a culmination of many years of playing, listening, collaboration and awareness. The range of influences and styles shown on the CD is wide ranging, but it all holds together like a fine painting and shows the listener the unique viewpoint of a committed artist.

It’s so hard to write about what music sounds like, especially without referencing the influences you perceive, but in this case that wouldn’t serve a purpose. Dave’s music is so personal, and at the risk of overusing a tired cliché, completely original. It’s so refreshing to hear an artist who is committed to his music without compromise, an improvisational mix of styles that doesn’t pander for airplay or make an obvious and embarrassing attempt at commercialism, while remaining highly listenable and accessible.

Assisted by bassist Jay Anderson, saxophonist Jon Crosse and even Wilco’s Nels Cline among many others, Spinning The Circle is just plain good music and I highly recommend it. It’s one of two CDs that hasn’t left my car (my favorite listening space) since cracking open the jewel box a month ago.