Trumpeter Corey Wilkes has been garnering considerable attention on the Chicago jazz scene in the last few years as a sideman with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Kahil El' Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble and Fred Anderson. Drop It, Wilkes' debut as a leader, finds the young lion exploring an array of contemporary, funk-laden compositions with a talented cast of like-minded cohorts.
The Langston Hughes poem "Trumpet Player," read by Miyanda Wilson, is a fitting invitation to the musical conception put forth on the disc. The mellow opener features Wilkes' languid muted trumpet, unhurried and impressively lyrical. A more explosive side to the leader's improvising comes out on the rocked-up "Remy's Revenge" and "Return 2 Sender," where Wilkes shares the spotlight with the Kenny Garrett-inspired alto saxophonist Jabari Liu.
Keyboardist Robert Irving III, perhaps best known for his work with Miles Davis in the 1980s, adds a soulful presence with thick, clustered chord voicings and dynamic soloing. His Fender Rhodes comping cascades through the title track, elevating an otherwise motionless funk vamp. The veteran Chicagoan displays some aggressive piano chops on "Remy's Revenge" and the more introspective "Searchin,'" a tune co-written by Irving and Wilkes.
Bassist Junius Paul and drummer Jeremy "Bean" Clemons lay down one infectious groove after another, keeping things tidy, yet sparse enough to keep blatantly commercial offerings like "Sonata in the Key of Jack Daniels" and "Return 2 Sender" from settling into blandness. The rhythm duo punches through "Ubiquitous Budafly" with a relentless, mesmerizing drive.
Wilkes proves a generous leader, spreading solo space evenly throughout his band and emphasizing his vision with a strong concept of ensemble. Drop It is a solid debut from one of the more promising voices in improvised music.
Track Listing: Trumpet Player; Sonata In the Key of Jack Daniels; Drop It; Remy's Revenge; Prelude: Touch; Touch; Return 2 Sender; Searchin'; Ubiqitous Budafly; Funkier Than a Mosquita's Tweeter; Drop It (Live).
Personnel: Corey Wilkes: trumpet, flugelhorn, cornet, percussion (10); Jabari Liu: alto sax (3, 7, 9, 10, 11); Chelsea Baratz: tenor sax (2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10); Kevin Nabors: tenor sax (3, 5, 6), percussion (10); Robert "Baabe" Irving III: electric piano, piano; Junius Paul: acoustic & electric bass; Jeremy "Bean" Ciemons: drums; Miyanda Wilson: spoken word (1); Scott Hesse: guitar (3); Dee Alexander: vocals ( 9, 10); Justin Dillard: organ (10).