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At just 29 years of age, Corey Wilkes has emerged as the next big thing in the trumpet world. This isn't a career path similar to Wynton Marsalis, nor Roy Harper, for that matter. Wilkes, an Illinois native, may be the reincarnation of the master, Lester Bowie. In fact, he has distinguished himself in the trumpet seat for Art Ensemble of Chicago and with Kahil El'Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensembles. He can also be heard with Rob Marzurek's Exploding Star Orchestra, Nicole Mitchell, Evan Parker, DJ Logic, and Tortoise.
Certainly with that resume, more out than in might be expected. But Wilkes is no neo-con, and on Drop It he sets the 'way-back' machine to somewhere in the fuzzy 1970s and '80s when jazz was smeared into funk and the deep groove was the order of the day.
This "I'm no neo-con" attitude is evident from the first spoken-word track, as Miyanda Wilson delivers Langston Hughes' "Trumpet Player," with Wilkes on muted trumpet response. The scene turns towards the late Miles Davis on "Sonata In the Key of Jack Daniels." Former Davis sideman Robert Irving III adds Fender Rhodes piano to this somewhat smooth-sounding composition. Fans of Wilkes' free work will certainly be scratching their heads as the song ends with a familiar radio fade. Likewise, "Return 2 Sender" plays the same cool game, making music that doubles for easily passed-over background sounds.
Never fear. Wilkes may just be toying with his listeners, as he drops some hipper than hip sounds on the funk-laden title track with wah-wah trumpet effects. The track is repeated live at the disc's end, with all the hip-hop fervor drummer Jeremy Clemmons can muster. The trumpet effects are then doubled on "Ubiquitous Budafly," with Dee Alexander's wordless vocals bubbling in tandem with Wilkes' playing. Some solid, Kenny Garrett-like alto playing from Jabari Liu compliments the track.
Wilkes' opening salvo in the jazz culture wars is an uneven affair, not unlike late Miles Davis efforts. Discerning listeners can take away some skilled playing and new fans can easily sign up with this very accessible recording.
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).
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.