Dave Wilson: Spiral (2010)
Saxophonist Dave Wilson's Spiral isn't directed at one specific jazz-listening demographic. High-brow originals ("Spiral") line up next to new arrangements of neglected jazz works (Richie Beirach's "Elm"), while rock-based performances (Creed's "My Own Prison") reside near gentler soprano saxophone statements ("Summer Breezes"). Fortunately, disparate stylistic directions don't derail the overall sound or focus of this project and the quartet manages to maintain a unified sound throughout.
"Spiral" and "Elm," which start off the album, threaten to scare away any jazz neophytes who might come across this album, but the music has much to offer. Drummer Adam Nussbaum constantly makes slight adjustments to the groove, making it hard to pin down one specific feel, and Wilson is on fire, along with pianist Phil Markowitz is on fire. "Elm" provides the first sighting of Wilson's soprano, and takes on an oboe-like quality as the song begins. Markowitz provides some wonderfully amorphous piano playing and Nussbaum vanishes during some minimalistic musical moments. Toward the end, the tempo gets dialed back a bit and Nussbaum provides some cymbal wash to thicken the sound.
"Ocean Blue" has more universal appeal than the opening numbers, and bassist Tony Marino provides some Brazilian bounce for the rest of the band. Nussbaum's brush work keeps things moving and Wilson (back on tenor) delivers a terrific solo with relaxed assurance. Equally enjoyable, Markowitz leans more toward a soulful, bluesy sound during his spot. Wilson's peppy soprano work enlivens his arrangement of The Grateful Dead classic, "Friend Of The Devil," and a jubilant spirit persists throughout the entire piece. A gentler, restrained soprano saxophone is at the center of "Summer Breezes," but this mellow mood doesn't last too long. "My Own Prison" features Wilson's raunchiest tenor work and his hard blowing, edgy sound perfectly matches the rock-based groove provided by Nussbaum.
The two standout tracks on the album are impressive for very different reasons. "Movin' On" has a cool slow groove that sidles along, but a fire is burning beneath it all along. Wilson's group sounds like Mood Swing-era (Warner Brothers, 1994) Joshua Redman , and both Wilson and Markowitz burrow deep within the musical matter of this song as they solo. Wilson holds onto his tenor for "Like GS 2," which is based on Scott LaFaro's "Gloria's Step." The chemistry between Wilson, Nussbaum and Marinowho solos admirably hereis what makes this one so special.
Of the three remaining songs, Wilson's arrangement of "(You're The) Biggest Part Of Me" is the most appealing. Gently chiming piano chords start things off and Wilson's pretty lines, introspective as they are, are fully engrossing. Whether gently caressing his soprano saxophone, passionately blowing on his tenor saxophone, or evoking any number of different moods on either axe, Dave Wilson always has something to say and presents something worth hearing on Spiral.
Track Listing: Spiral; Elm; Ocean Blue; Friend Of The Devil; Summer Breezes; My Own Prison; Movin' On; Like GS 2; Remembering; Francisca; (You're The) Biggest Part Of Me.
Personnel: Dave Wilson: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Phil Markowitz: piano; Tony Marino: bass; Adam Nussbaum: drums.