The jazz scene is replete with artists who died before they were able to realize the extent of their capabilities; Dick Twardzik, Booker Little, and Scott LaFaro were prodigious talents whose small recorded output gives us only a glimpse of the enormous talent each possessed. Add to this list Willie Wilson, whose sole performance on record is featured on Duke Pearson's album Dedication
, recently reissued by OJC.
This album not only proves that Wilson was a talent in the making, but also catches a few notable jazz greats at pivotal moments in their career. Consider Pearson himself, a young buck on this album who went on to display a knack for composing and arranging memorable tunes for Johnny Coles, Grant Green, and his own small groups. Or Freddie Hubbard, always at his best as a sideman, on loan from Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Pepper Adams, the most established talent at the time, would later go on to co-lead popular and influential sessions with Donald Byrd (recently reissued by Mosaic). All three show off their burgeoning talents on each track, which are mostly hard-bop workouts; the unusual combination of trumpet, baritone sax, and trombone in the front line creates some interesting textures and gives testimony to Pearson's skills as an arranger. Hubbard provides his trademark high-register blasts while Adams anchors the lower end with more bite than most baritone players provide. Pearson takes melodic solos and fans the flames from the back.
However, the real find here is Wilson, who is provided ample solo room and deservedly gets the ballads all to himself. Wilson plays with fluidity and agility one rarely finds from trombone players; his solos are always warm and inviting. His sole writing credit, a sultry blues composed with his wife, show potential as a leader, as well. Unfortunately, Wilson died two years after this recording was made (the liner notes don't indicate why). Had he lived, he surely had the potential to be a force to be reckoned with. At times this record seems seems like a showcase for Wilson's talents, which is as it should be; he was one of the lost greats.
Personnel: Due Pearson, piano; Freddie Hubbard, trumpet; Willie Wilson, trombone; Pepper Adams, baritone sax; Thomas Howard, bass; Lex Humphries, drums.