Steve Wilkerson & Andrea Baker: Licorice Ice
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This is the 6th release from Steve Wilkerson and Andrea Baker for their Dane Records label. This time they work together on a CD that features a formidable of Wilkerson clarinet Earlier albums either had him ignoring the instrument or using it sparingly. But with its renaissance, he adds his name to the those who are reviving the difficult instrument., Wilkerson explores the instrument's romantic possibilities on such tunes as "The Shadow of your Smile" and "Pennies from Heaven". He adds humor with tongue (or reed) in cheek 20's style on "After You've Gone" with everyone getting a chance to let loose in ensemble and alone. The Bix Beiderbecke like muted trumpet of Gary Halopoff steals the show on this cut.
Wilkerson's tone is pure, cool and completely without vibrato. He also takes full advantage of the flexibility offered by the clarinet. There's a middle register mahogany tone on "In a Mellow Tone". The coda here is a jazz variation of the clarinet introduction to George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue". He uses "China Boy" to show that he go to the stratosphere without screeching.
Wife Andrea Baker does not vocalize on all the cuts. She comes in on such tunes as her own "Sentimental and Blue" and a tender "Pennies from Heaven". While having great range, her phrasing and diction is such that she is very pleasant to listen to.
Licorice Ice is almost an hour of ballads and medium and up tempo music provided by an exceptional group of West Coast musicians with the emphasis on the clarinet. For me, this is the most interesting and varied album of music Wilkerson has produced to date.
Track Listing: The More I See You*; In a Mellow Tone; China Boy; Sentimental & Blue*; Sing, Sing, Sing; The Shadow of Your Smile; Squeeze Me*; Amazing Grace; Pennies from Heaven*; After You've Gone
Personnel: Steve Wilkerson - Clarinet/Soprano, Baritone, Alto & Tenor Saxes; Andrea Baker* - Vocals; Kevin Axt, Jeff Takiguchi - Bass; James Gadson - Drums; Gary Halopoff - Trumpet; Llew Matthews - Piano; Fino Raveratto - Guitar/Banjo; Harry Smallenburg - Vibes; Greg Solomon -Trombone
Record Label: Dane Records