Wenso Ashby not so boldly stays in place with “The Moment of Truth”

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The Moment of Truth by Wenso Ashby, formerly Wenso Ashby featuring Zsamé, isn’t a great deal about which to get excited. It is listenable. Of that there’s no doubt. One thing Wenso Ashby owns as a track record is that he creates and orchestrates a smooth groove in singular fashion. The guy can capture sunlight, or moody, moonlit scenes, brandishing an uncanny, articulate touch with the keys. Something, though, somewhere, has gone wrong. This refreshing innovator has stopped refreshing, stopped innovating.

The Moment of Truth evinces no next step, not boldly daring to go where Ashby has never gone before. No adventure. The pianist-arranger extraordinaire lapses formulaic. Went to the well once too often for that airy ambience. To the point, this time, he didn’t infuse said aura with any immediacy. He resorts, all too often, to repeating past riffs, phrasings and figures. Wenso Ashby’s style has grown stale. On top of which, he is guilty of committing musak. In the first degree. To wit, “Remember The Time” is a feckless Kenny G-like take on Michael Jackson’s classic. Which, who knows why, doesn’t have Zsamé on a vocal, wearing that melody out like a pair of old shoes. It’s an instrumental. With sax ace Willie Moore sounding uncharacteristically synthetic. Moore, to be sure, has monster chops. Should’ve used them here. Aside from omitting a vocalist who’d sell this song like tommorow’s news, the arrangement is slick. To the point of sterility.  

By the time this album gets interesting with “All Day Long,” which does finally get the ball rolling, it’s almopst worth the wait. It doesn’t save The Moment of Truth, but, beyond doubt, the hypnotic melody exquisitely executed by Lady Z is worth sitting through a presidential speech. Zsamé augments an already fascinating aural palette. Subtle as silk. Improving, as it were, on perfection.  

Then, it’s back to showcasing Ashby and Moore. On “N2U,” they hog center stage in a meandering melody. By this point, one wonders why Ashby’s treating Zsamé, his front lady and strongest asset, like an afterthought, some marginally showcased session singer.

Take a pass on The Moment of Truth.