Steve Wilson: Soulful Song (2003)
Saxophonist Steve Wilson's extensive experience with the Mingus Big Band and Chick Corea's Origin make up only a shadow of the vast array of musical influences on his definition of jazz. His career has carried him to all facets of the jazz world: some adventurous and some laid back. Soulful Song represents a theme. The leader has brought his favorite sounds together into one album. Of his inspiration for this kind of musical celebration, Wilson says, "On the same [radio] station one could experience the best of R&B, jazz, blues, gospel, comedy, and social commentary."
Where "Reasons" issues smoothly with a funky backbeat and a contemporary aura, Bruce Barth's "Wilsonian Alto" sends out sparks of adventure and innovation. Modern jazz triumphs over smooth jazz on this piece.
Three vocalists help the saxophonist in his interpretation of jazz, R&B, blues, and gospel. Carla Cook rains emotion in a church setting with her soulful interpretation of "Carla's Gospel," with Fender Rhodes and flute assisting her in working wonders for the soul. Renï Marie brings Abbey Lincoln's "Caged Bird" into focus as no other form of social commentary can do. Philip Manuel sings of respecting others as well as yourself on an R&B-flavored jazz arrangement that drives straight ahead with a funky beat designed to instill self-confidence. No one can absorb "Respect Yourself" without coming away feeling better inside... that's what radio is supposed to do for you.
Throughout his session, Wilson's soul-stirring saxophones provide a unique form of communication, connecting with his audience on several levels. We're not expected to turn a deaf ear to musical styles that remain apart from our dear favorites. We should remain forever open to it all. In the same manner that Nat King Cole could bring everyone together, Wilson corrals a variety of specialties here under one umbrella. Along with pianist Barth, bassist Ed Howard, and drummer Adam Cruz, the leader paves a strong, straight-ahead jazz foundation. On the surface, however, he's opened up avenues through which a much larger audience can easily appreciate Steve Wilson's soulful songs.
Track Listing: You're Everything; Wish You Were Here; Reasons; Wilsonian Alto; Wishful Thinking; Respect Yourself; Caged Bird; Carla?s Gospel; Easy Going Evening (My Mama's Call); Third World Revolution; Tortola; And Eye You (BC); Carla's Gospel (reprise).
Personnel: Steve Wilson: alto, soprano saxophones, flute; Bruce Barth: piano; Ed Howard: bass; James Genus; bass; Adam Cruz: drums; Billy Kilson: drums; Carla Cook: vocals; Phillip Manuel: vocals; Rene Marie: vocals; Paul Bollenback: guitar; Wilson Corniel: percussion.