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In spite of its provocative title, the themes on composer / arranger / guitarist Anthony Wilson’s third release for the MAMA Foundation aren’t x–rated. Perhaps “music for adults” would be a more accurate description, for that it surely is. Wilson, who has reached the ripe old age of 31, validates the uncommon maturity that overspread his self–titled debut album and its successor, Goat Hill Junket. He does so with a series of remarkably inventive charts for his 11–piece ensemble that run the gamut from blues to ballad, swing to contemporary and beyond (including one of the loveliest and hippest arrangements of “Danny Boy” we’ve ever heard). The album’s centerpiece, “Adult Themes,” is a five–movement suite commissioned by the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE), from whom Wilson received the 1998 Gil Evans / IAJE Fellowship Award. It’s an ambitious work that draws its inspiration from a number of periods and styles, at times serious or daring but always lyrical and rhythmic, moving from the stormy bop lines of “Unfinished Situation” through the balladic calm of “Impermanence” (beautifully underlined by Ray Vega’s piano) and “Lullaby” (gently caressed by Wilson’s guitar) and the New Orleans–style two–beat rhythms of “The Impasse” and “Integration” (with trumpeter Carl Saunders and tenor Pete Christlieb dueling on the latter). Wilson opens with the fleet and contrapuntal “Barry’s Tune” by John Carisi, then summons organist Joe Bagg to center stage on Donald Fagen’s soulful “Maxine” (another marvelous arrangement). The next three tunes are Wilson’s — the aptly named “Chorale,” featuring alto saxophonist Jeff Clayton; “Idle Blues,” on which Christlieb and Bagg leave their mournful imprint; and “Invention in Blue,” an easygoing charmer whose exquisite ensemble passages enfold splendid solos by Vega, Wilson and Saunders. “Danny Boy,” a warm showcase for Jack Nimitz’s gruff baritone, is preceded by Lennon / McCartney’s “Because” whose fugue–like arrangement sounds close to what a twentieth–century J.S. Bach might have written. Wilson knows where he’s going musically, and doesn’t avoid taking chances to get there. And as one can readily perceive on Adult Themes, he keeps getting better.
Track listing: Barry’s Tune; Maxine; Chorale; Idle Blues; Invention in Blue; Because; Danny Boy; Adult Themes (Unfinished Situation, Impermanence, The Impasse, Lullaby, Integration). (68:45).
Anthony Wilson, guitar, electric sitar, kazoo; Carl Saunders, trumpet, flugelhorn; Ira Nepus, trombone; Jeff Clayton, alto sax, clarinet, flute; Pete Christlieb, tenor sax; Jack Nimitz, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Donald Vega, piano; Joe Bagg, organ; Danton Boller, bass; Mark Ferber, drums; Greg Ellis, percussion, tamboura.
Contact: MAMA Records, 555 E. Easy St., Simi Valley, CA 93065 (e