It's easy to grasp why Anthony Wilson's harmonically rich arrangements have so many hard-ass jazz critics heaping praise. This is an elegant and ambitious album that invites comparisons to Wynton Marsalis’s best work.
Anthony Wilson is the 30-year-old son of L.A. bandleader and composer Gerald Wilson. A guitarist who plays his Gibson with boppish proficiency, Wilson is also a talented composer-arranger whose music combines the swing-era elegance of Duke Ellington with the fluid complexity of Gil Evans. Goat Hill Junket is Wilson's second release as a leader, and like his critically acclaimed debut, it features a nine-piece ensemble with three reeds, two brass instruments, piano, bass, drums, and the leader's guitar.
The funky original "W-2 Blues" and the swinging Tadd Demeron composition "Flossie Lou" are the most infectious pieces here, and both feature Michael LeDonne's tasteful organ and Wilson's elaborate horn charts. "The Cherry Tree" is a pretty mid-tempo piece, while "Hell's Belles" is a cool jazzy tango. "It Has Happened to Me" is a hard-swinging number that showcases some ferocious bop blowing from the man who wrote it, tenor saxophonist Bennie Wallace. The remaining tracks include the melodic Wilson original "Georgia Waltz" and the standards "Here's That Rainy Day" and "Stairway to the Stars."
At times Wilson's complex arrangements are a bit too cerebral for my tastes, but his songs grow more interesting after repeated listens.This is a clever young cat who could become a jazz icon in the 21st Century.