Jack Wilkins: Ridge Lines (2002)

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A pity that musicians this talented have to produce their own albums, even though this one by tenor saxphonist Jack Wilkins and his companions was made possible in part by a Research and Creative Scholarship award from the University of South Florida where he is a member of the Music School’s faculty, as, I presume, is almost everyone else on the date (trumpeter Scott Wendholt, busy on the New York scene, may be an exception). Wilkins, who wrote four of the eight selections, uses only a rhythm section on “Cape Waltz,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Tuscan Hills,” larger groups on the other numbers. Even so, it’s basically a quintet date with Wilkins, guitarist Barry Greene and pianist Clay Perry handling the lion’s share of the solos (Wendholt is heard to good advantage on both his guest shots, “Walt in the Trap” and “Shorter Path”) while the others are used as a chorale to add color and variety to the charts. Wilkins is an adventurous player whose caustic tone and rapid–fire delivery remind one of a laundry list of post–bop tenors — Jerry Bergonzi, Rich Perry, Walt Weiskopf, Lew Tabackin, Bob Berg and others of that stripe. Greene, shrewd and supple, is an excellent counterweight and pianist Perry a hard–working accompanist, as are bassist Mark Neuenschwander and drummer Danny Gottlieb. The album’s weakest aspect, if indeed it may be characterized as such, lies in the material; Wilkins’ compositions are less than riveting (except for the well–paved “Shorter Path”), as are the two by Chuck Owen (“A Ridge Away,” “Glib”), and even the more familiar tunes (“This Love of Mine,” “Singin’ in the Rain”), although well–played, as is everything on the date, aren’t what one would describe as classics. Nevertheless, a generally impressive outing by a group of educators who clearly are able to practice what they teach.

Contact: Jack Wilkins, USF School of Music, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33620. Phone 813–974–4810; fax 813–974–8721; e–mail wilkins@arts.usf.edu

Track Listing: Walt in the Trap; Cape Waltz; This Love of Mine; Singin

Personnel: Jack Wilkins, tenor sax; Clay Perry, piano, organ; Barry Greene, guitar; Mark Neuenschwander, bass; Danny Gottlieb, drums; Chuck Owen (2, 5), synthesizer; Tom Brantley (1, 3, 5, 6, 8), trombone; Jay Coble (3, 5, 8), trumpet, flugelhorn; Valerie Gillespie (1, 3, 5, 8), alto sax; Scott Wendholt (1, 6), trumpet.

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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