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Sarah Wilson: Trapeze Project (2010)

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Sarah Wilson: Trapeze Project How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

San Francisco-based trumpeter/vocalist Sarah Wilson is gifted with idiosyncratic and fresh composing skills that are so rare in jazz musicians who have gone through the formal avenues of jazz education. Her career began when she composed and played music for the Bread and Puppet Theater troupe; continued by studying with esteemed trumpeters John McNeil
John McNeil
John McNeil

trumpet
and Laurie Frink; absorbed the complex musical languages of Henry Threadgill
Henry Threadgill
Henry Threadgill
b.1944
reeds
and Steve Coleman
Steve Coleman
Steve Coleman
b.1956
saxophone
; and gained experience in New York's flourishing Downtown scene. After her mother died, she began to write songs and sing.

This long and winding road brings together all the disparate elements of her career to this, her second album. It is an arresting set of beautiful compositions and songs that sound cerebral, made of far-flung resources, but at the same time sounding very melodic and organic, with a strong emotional appeal. Wilson swings naturally between genres and styles, blurring any stylistic boundaries with confidence and charm. Trapeze Project reflects her return to the California, as she enlists an all-star quintet.

The album moves between changing moods and colors. It begins with a joyful, swinging "Blessing," dedicated to the musicians who played at legendary Blackhawk jazz club. The following slow and sad "She Stands in a Room," inspired by a glass sculpture by Nicolas Africano, features the quintet's tight interplay. The energetic "At Zebulon" features pianist Myra Melford
Myra Melford
Myra Melford
b.1957
piano
, setting the driving pulse, while Wilson and clarinetist Ben Goldberg
Ben Goldberg
Ben Goldberg

clarinet
improvise above it. Her gentle, fragile singing on "Melancholy for Place" is reminiscent of Robin Holcomb, as both reference old-time, Americana songs.

The lyrical "Himalayas" is dedicated to drummer Kenny Wollesen's avant-brass band, for which Wilson composed music, and is structured around Jerome Harris
Jerome Harris
Jerome Harris
b.1953
bass
's pensive bass line. Drummer Scott Amendola
Scott Amendola
Scott Amendola
b.1969
drums
leads "In Resonance Light Take Place," based on a Pablo Neruda poem, and as this composition gains momentum, all members of the quintet add layers to the imaginative pulse. Wilson's restrained reading of Joy Division's Ian Curtis composition "Love Will Tear Us Apart," is a spare arrangement of this classic song, radiating a profound and humble understanding of complex relationships.

The fiery "Underneath the Soil" returns to a more optimistic course, but the most beautiful composition is the dramatic "Fall has Arrived," based on a Persian folk song, that begins with Goldberg's masterful solo, with all the players slowly joining and carefully adding their touches to this arresting melody. Wilson concludes this beautiful album with another gentle song, "From the River," and a heartfelt, modern marching blues, "To New Orleans," that captures her feelings after leaving New York, and the grave impacts of Katrina on her brother, a resident of New Orleans.

Track Listing: Blessing; She Stands in a Room; At Zebulon; Melancholy for Place; Himalayas; In Resonance Light Takes Place; Love Will Tear Us Apart; Underneath the Soil; Fall Has Arrived; Possibility; From the River; To New Orleans.

Personnel: Sarah Wilson: trumpet, vocals; Myra Melford: piano; Ben Goldberg: clarinet; Jerome Harris: bass; Scott Amendola: drums.

Record Label: Brass Tonic

Style: Modern Jazz


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