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Gerald Wilson Orchestra / Dallas Original Jazz Orchestra / University of North Texas Two O'Clock Lab Band

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Gerald Wilson Orchestra
Detroit
Mack Avenue Records
2009

Composer / arranger / ageless wonder Gerald Wilson

Gerald Wilson
Gerald Wilson
b.1918
composer/conductor
, most of whose recent albums (Monterey Moods; New York, New Sound; Theme for Monterey; State Street Sweet) have been built around sectional themes, returns "home" on Detroit to paint an earnest musical portrait of his adopted city, one that not only spawned the nation's auto industry but has produced a wealth of renowned jazz musicians from the Jones brothers (Elvin, Thad, Hank) to Barry Harris
Barry Harris
Barry Harris
b.1929
piano
, Tommy Flanagan
Tommy Flanagan
Tommy Flanagan
1930 - 2001
piano
, Donald Byrd
Donald Byrd
Donald Byrd
1932 - 2013
trumpet
, Kenny Burrell
Kenny Burrell
Kenny Burrell
b.1931
guitar
, Pepper Adams
Pepper Adams
Pepper Adams
1930 - 1986
sax, baritone
, Betty Carter
Betty Carter
Betty Carter
1930 - 1998
vocalist
, Paul Chambers
Paul Chambers
Paul Chambers
1935 - 1969
bass, acoustic
, Billy Mitchell
Billy Mitchell
Billy Mitchell
1926 - 2001
saxophone
, Curtis Fuller
Curtis Fuller
Curtis Fuller
b.1934
trombone
, Yusef Lateef
Yusef Lateef
Yusef Lateef
1920 - 2013
reeds
, Dorothy Ashby
Dorothy Ashby
Dorothy Ashby
1932 - 1996
harp
and many others.

Even though he was born in Mississippi, Wilson's family moved to Detroit when he was quite young, and he was graduated from Cass Tech High School, once known far and wide for its exemplary music programs. It was from Detroit that Wilson launched his career with the Jimmie Lunceford

Jimmie Lunceford
Jimmie Lunceford
1902 - 1947
composer/conductor
Band, and the rest, as they say, is history. Wilson has been composing and arranging almost ever since, and the NEA Jazz Master and "Living Jazz Legend" has half a dozen Grammy Award nominations to his credit.

What is most remarkable, as epitomized on Detroit, is that, at age ninety-one, Wilson hasn't lost a step when it comes to writing sharp and exhilarating big-band charts. After framing a carefree mood with the snappy "Blues on Belle Isle," Wilson salutes his alma mater with "Cass Tech," a straight-on swinger with a sunny piano intro by Brian O'Rourke and pleasing solos by son Anthony Wilson

Anthony Wilson
Anthony Wilson
b.1968
guitar
on guitar, tenor Kamasi Washington and guest trumpeter Sean Jones
Sean Jones
Sean Jones
b.1978
trumpet
. These are the first movements in the six-part Detroit Suite, performed by Wilson's Los Angeles Band; the last two (unrelated) numbers, "Everywhere" and "Aram," showcase his New York Band with guest flautist Hubert Laws
Hubert Laws
Hubert Laws
b.1939
flute
brightening the landscape on "Everywhere."

"Detroit" weaves its spell with easygoing grace, "Miss Gretchen" demurely unveils her loveliness before cutting loose, "Before Motown" is bold and sassy (with apposite solos by Jones, O'Rourke, Washington, fellow tenor Louis Van Taylor

Louis Van Taylor
Louis Van Taylor
b.1954
saxophone
, trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez and trombonist Les Benedict), after which the turbulent "Detroit River" engulfs the listener in a tidal wave of big-band bravado enhanced by O'Rourke, Anthony Wilson, Van Taylor, trumpeters Jones and Ron Barrow, soprano Jackie Kelso
Jackie Kelso
b.1922
sax, alto
, trombonist Eric Jorgensen and violinist Yvette Devereaux (more than window dressing; she really swings, whether in the "River" or on "Belle Isle").

Washington, Jones and Anthony Wilson solo with the always-inspiring Laws and an unnamed trombonist on the mid-tempo charmer "Everywhere," while trumpeter Terell Stafford

Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford
b.1966
trumpet
and alto Antonio Hart
Antonio Hart
Antonio Hart
b.1968
saxophone
relish their moment in the sun on the colorful "Aram." Gerald Wilson has been and remains a marvel, and Detroit warrants a place among his finest works for big band. Would anyone care to wager against raising the ante to seven Grammy nominations?


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