On one level, pianist Deanna Witkowski’s Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns is a luminously lyrical trio session interpreting a spiritually charged body of music rarely investigated by jazz artists. But Witkowski, an award-winning composer, has a far more ambitious agenda than introducing the jazz world to the sizable treasure trove of hymns woven into the weekly liturgy of churches across the Anglosphere.
Makes the Heart to Sing is part of a larger project that includes the publication of a folio of Witkowski’s arrangements and videos of her trio performing them. “It’s an instrumental jazz trio record but the mission is to get this music played more widely outside of church,” she says, “and to bring these jazz interpretations into circulation inside churches. The album is almost a demo for church music directors, and the arrangements are meant for congregational singing.”
The winner of the 2002 Great American Jazz Piano Competition, Witkowski has released six critically hailed albums over the past two decades, with each new project revealing a steadily evolving sensibility marked by melodic invention and emotional connection. As an accompanist, she’s toured with soul-steeped vocalist Lizz Wright and held down the piano chair for ten years in the Jim McNeely–led BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra. Her projects as a leader feature fellow heavyweights like bassist John Patitucci and saxophonist Donny McCaslin.
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Witkowski's playing is consistently thrilling, and her musical imagination seems boundless.
-Rick Anderson, All Music Guide
If, among contemporary pianists, Brad Mehldau and Bill Charlap represent the gold standard, then Deanna Witkowski deservedly ranks as their sterling sister.
-Christopher Loudon, JazzTimes
One of the best of the new generation of jazz piano players.
-Bruce Crowther, Jazz Journal International
Witkowski is not far from jazz stardom with her keyboard techniques, her imaginative composing and arranging, and her wordless vocalizing. Remember her name.
-Harvey Siders, JazzTimes
New York City
Willing to teach