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Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Detroit (2009)

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Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Detroit How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Commissioned by the Detroit International Jazz Festival and premiered on the occasion of the composer's 91st birthday, Gerald Wilson's six-movement "Detroit Suite" demonstrates that after nearly seven decades in the music business, the nonagenarian composer and arranger still has a great deal to offer in terms of musical creativity. Wilson spent the latter part of his teen years in the Motor City, where he studied trumpet, piano, percussion, and composition at Cass Technical High School from 1934-39, and he still regards Detroit as a "hometown."

The opening "Blues on Belle Isle," which is named for a park on a island in the Detroit River, features the alto sax of Randall Willis, trumpeter Sean Jones, violinist Yvette Devereaux (following in the footsteps of the young Jean-Luc Ponty

Jean-Luc Ponty
Jean-Luc Ponty
b.1942
violin
, who occupied this chair in the Wilson ensemble four decades ago), and guitarist and Gerald's son Anthony Wilson
Anthony Wilson
Anthony Wilson
b.1968
guitar
, who has been a mainstay of the Diana Krall
Diana Krall
Diana Krall
b.1964
piano
quartet for the past several years. "Cass Tech," Wilson's paean to his alma mater, is a variation on Benny Golson
Benny Golson
Benny Golson
b.1929
sax, tenor
's "Along Came Betty" in much the same fashion as Bill Holman
Bill Holman
Bill Holman
b.1927
sax, tenor
's take on "Stompin' at the Savoy" for Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
1911 - 1979
piano
over a half-century ago. The ballad "Detroit" spotlights Willis on flute, Jones on fluegelhorn, and the tenor sax of Kamasi Washington (Jones and Washington appear on both the Los Angeles and New York sessions).

Based on the chord changes of Billy Strayhorn

Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
1915 - 1967
piano
's "Chelsea Bridge," "Miss Gretchen" salutes Mack Avenue founder and president Gretchen Valade with solos from pianist Brian O'Rourke and the Harmon-muted trumpet of Winston Byrd, plus Devereaux (adapting the classic Ben Webster
Ben Webster
Ben Webster
1909 - 1973
sax, tenor
solo from the release to her violin) and Anthony Wilson. Latin rhythms a la Wilson's "Carlos" and "Viva Tirado" predominate in "Before Motown" (which bears absolutely no connection with the musical genre of that name), with Bobby Rodriguez's trumpet, Les Benedict's trombone, and the tenors of Washington and Louis Van Taylor all capturing attention. "The Detroit River," on the other hand, resembles Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
on steroids, as trumpeter/contractor Ron Barrows, veteran soprano saxophonist Jackie Kelso
Jackie Kelso
b.1922
sax, alto
, trombonist Eric Jorgensen, Devereaux, Van Taylor, O'Rourke, and Anthony Wilson all contribute to this hyper-charged swinger.

The two remaining tracks, "Everywhere" (a remake of the title cut from a 1968 Pacific Jazz LP by Wilson) and "Aram," are from the same sessions as Wilson's 2005 New York, New Sound (his Mack Avenue debut) and feature the New York ensemble. Flute legend Hubert Laws

Hubert Laws
Hubert Laws
b.1939
flute
highlights the modal "Everywhere," while "Aram" (possibly named for the Soviet-era Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian) offers frequent rhythmic shifts between jazz-waltz and straight-ahead 4/4 tempi supporting powerful solos by trumpeter Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford
b.1966
trumpet
(Director of Jazz Studies of the Boyer College of Music at Philadelphia's Temple University, and a member of NYC's celebrated Vanguard Jazz Orchestra
Vanguard Jazz Orchestra
Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

band/orchestra
) and altoist Antonio Hart.

Track Listing: Blues on Belle Isle; Cass Tech; Detroit; Miss Gretchen; Before Motown; The Detroit River; Everywhere; Aram.

Personnel: Gerald Wilson, conductor, composer, arranger; Los Angeles: Ron Barrows: trumpet, contractor; Bobby Rodriguez: trumpet; Sean Jones: trumpet; Jeff Kaye: trumpet; Rick Baptist: trumpet; Winston Byrd: trumpet; Eric Jorgensen: trombone; Les Benedict: trombone; Mike Wimberly: trombone; Shaunte Palmer: trombone; Jackie Kelso: alto, soprano saxes; Randall Willis: alto sax, flute; Carl Randall: tenor sax; Kamasi Washington: tenor sax; Louis Van Taylor: tenor, baritone saxes; Terry Landry: baritone sax; Yvette Devereaux: violin; Brian O'Rourke: piano; Anthony Wilson: guitar; Trey Henry: bass; Mel Lee: drums; New York: Jon Faddis: trumpet, fluegelhorn, contractor; Frank Greene: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Jimmy Owens: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Sean Jones: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Terell Stafford: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Dennis Wilson: trombone; Luis Bonilla: trombone; Jay Ashby: trombone; Douglas Purviance: bass trombone; Hubert Laws: flute; Steve Wilson: alto and soprano saxes, flute; Antonio Hart: alto and soprano saxes, flute; Ron Blake: tenor sax; Kamasi Washington: tenor sax; Ronnie Cuber: baritone sax; Renee Rosnes: piano; Anthony Wilson: guitar; Peter Washington: bass; Lewis Nash: drums.

Record Label: Mack Avenue Records

Style: Big Band


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