NPR Weekend Edition Sunday April 12 Interview with Pianist Deanna Witkowski Discussing Her Sacred Jazz CD, From This Place

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New York jazz pianist/composer/vocalist Deanna Witkowski discusses her new sacred jazz recording, From This Place, on Easter Sunday, April 12, on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Sunday.

On Easter Sunday, April 12, NPR Weekend Edition Sunday will air an interview with New York jazz pianist/composer/vocalist Deanna Witkowski discussing her new sacred jazz recording, From This Place with host Liane Hansen. Starting at noon (ET) on April 12, the interview will be available online at http://nprmusic.org and at http://deannajazz.com.

Winner of the 2002 Great American Jazz Piano Competition and a past guest on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz, Deanna Witkowski has been heralded for her "consistently thrilling" playing and her "boundless imagination" (All Music Guide). For her fourth release, Witkowski marries ancient and modern sacred texts with the richness of jazz in a beautiful, genre-defying statement. Not since Mary Lou Williams has there been a pianist who has melded jazz and liturgy into such a joyous, accessible art form that will appeal across generational, stylistic, and religious divides.

From This Place finds Witkowski leading a core quartet, with Donny McCaslin on soprano and tenor sax, John Patitucci on acoustic and electric bass, and Scott Latzky on drums. Her previously documented wide-ranging stylistic and emotional palette is broadened by the addition of guest vocalists Laila Biali, Peter Eldridge (of the New York Voices), and 2009 Grammy-nominated Kate McGarry. With an emphasis on breathing new life into texts ranging from nineteenth-century hymn writers, the Mass, scriptures, and her own pen, Witkowski shows another side of her considerable talent: a stunning gift to find the essence of a text and to translate that essence into sound; and a contemplative, open spirit as an original lyricist.

The varied textures on From This Place will actively engage listeners, whether they are jazz fans or have little background in jazz: "Let My Prayer Rise" brings an earthy blues feel to a psalm; "Gloria," "Agnus Dei," and "Keep in Mind" feature intricate four-part harmony; and "O, the Deep, Deep Love" provides an inspired trio adaptation of a nineteenth-century hymn tune. Witkowski's original lyrics contribute to two of the most stunning tracks on the album: "Never Before" abandons instruments in a three-part women's a cappella piece featuring Kate McGarry and Laila Biali; while "From This Place" features the quartet in a through-composed work that, with its naked vulnerability and sweeping dynamic range, offers a glance into Mary Magdalene's tumultuous emotional landscape on Easter morning.

Witkowski is keenly aware of other jazz musicians who have blended jazz and sacred texts. In 2007, she teamed with Mary Lou Williams historian, Dr. Tammy Kernodle, to present Moving with the Spirit: The Sacred Jazz of Mary Lou Williams at Saint Peter's Church in New York City. Moving will again be presented on May 16, 2009 as the official educational component of the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival and will be streamed live at http://kennedy-center.org.

Witkowski's previous three releases, Length of Days (2005), Wide Open Window (2003), and Having to Ask (2000) clearly demonstrated her prowess as "one of the best of the new generation of jazz pianists" (Jazz Journal International) and showcased her rich fusions of jazz, Brazilian, and Afro-Cuban music. Her "consistently thrilling playing" (All Music Guide) was publicly confirmed in 2002 when she won the Great American Jazz Piano Competition. Subsequent invitations to appear on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Sunday and Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz followed in 2003.

Witkowski continues to perform in a wide variety of venues, as is apparent from her 2009 itinerary: On a recent Chicago tour, her trio shared a double bill with the John Patitucci Duo in concert; participated in a university panel on the intersection of art and faith; gave a rhythm section clinic at a community college; and played in worship services at an Episcopal church. In addition to her active performance schedule, Witkowski is also taking the time to create fully notated piano parts for musicians who want to play her music in their own settings. A corresponding songbook to From This Place is available at http://deannajazz.com.

Witkowski's never-ending curiosity and love of other cultures has allowed her to extend her fan base to Brazil: Fluent in Portuguese, she has toured twice in the country, most recently appearing at the Recife Jazz Festival. Her travels have also led to performances at the Tel Aviv Opera House and Espaço Bis in Rio de Janeiro. She spent the summer of 2004 touring internationally as the pianist for vocalist Lizz Wright, and since 2006 has been the pianist in the BMI/New York Jazz Composers Orchestra, led by Jim McNeely. She holds a M.A. in jazz piano performance from the City College of New York and a B.M. in classical piano performance from Wheaton College (IL).

Hi-res press photos are available at http://www.deannajazz.com. For review copies of CDs, contact Kelly Hughes.

About DeChant-Hughes & Associates:
DeChant-Hughes & Associates, Inc. (DHA) is a public relations firm dedicated to national media coverage for books and authors, specializing in presenting religious thought to all media.

Contact:
Kelly Hughes, President
DeChant-Hughes & Associates
(312) 280.8126
kelly (at) dechanthughes.com
http://www.dechanthughes.com

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Deanna Witkowski

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