It was in 2002 that Corey Wilkes (trumpet, flugelhorn, cornet) made his presence on the Chicago jazz scene. His strengths as a musician soon ushered him into the seat left behind by Lester Bowie with the Art Ensemble of Chicago. He has filled that spot remarkably well just as he has added more fire to Kahil El' Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble. There is a lot more to his cannon, including stints with Fred Anderson and Wynton Marsalis which show his ease of assimilation, as well as playing with DJ Logic and Soulive. His interests are wide, and this is the perspective he brings to his debut recording as leader.
The reference on "Trumpet Player" is obvious. Wilkes plays the muted trumpet with a beautiful tone. His lines float between the spoken words of Miyanda Wilson that profile Wilkes in terms of his musical vision and personality.
Junius Paul (bass) sets a slightly funky pulse for "Return 2 Sender" but the arrangement steers it into bop territory through the saxophones. Wilkes is right at home, playing with clean determination and well formed ideas. The saxophones and the trumpet trade sumptuous ideas which give the music a throbbing appeal.
"Funkier Than a Mosquita's Tweeter" is another track with a tantalizing arrangement. The Ike and Tina Turner song gets a slow build-up. Singer Dee Alexander is raw and slinky as she spits out the words with more than a hint of malice. The mood is fanned by Justin Dillard on the Hammond B3. Wilkes fills in the spaces with quick interjections, but come the turn for his solo, he is off snapping out one sharp flint after another and upping the intensity. By now the song is flying on the wings of fire. It's a marvelous reinvention.
Wilkes brings in funk, hip hop and blues to tie in with his jazz approach which strokes both mainstream and modern jazz. His tastes are wide but a stronger focus and clearer direction of the music would have given more impetus to the CD. The paramount factor though is his talent as a player and improviser and he shows that in plenty.
Personnel: Corey Wilkes: trumpet, flugelhorn, cornet; Jabari Liu: alto sax; Chelsea Baratz: tenor sax; Kevin Nabors: tenor sax; Robert “Baabe” Irving III; Fender Rhodes, piano; Junius Paul: acoustic and electric bass; Jeremy “Bean” Clemons: drums; Miyanda Wilson: spoken word (1); Scott Hess: guitar (3); Dee Alexander: vocals (9, 10); Justin Dillard: Hammond B3 (10).