As the man who took on Lester Bowie's mantle in the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Corey Wilkes is clearly not averse to a challenge. He's also a musician with an above average grasp of where the music's come from and a clear idea of where he wants to take it. As a trumpet player he's already got a lot of what it takes, a personal way of phrasing and an acute ear for a melodic line, and on this his debut disc he sets out his stall while putting down a marker for the future.
That said, there is a particular sheen to some of the music here which makes it a little anonymous, as on "Sonata In The Key Of Jack Daniels" where both Wilkes and tenor saxophonist Chelsea Baratz's telling solos are undermined somewhat by their backing and the fade does little to enhance the appeal of the piece.
The following title track is a better indication of how widely Wilkes has listened and learned with his deft use of electronic alterations on a sound that's indicative of a musician for whom the term Renaissance man might have been invented. Jabari Liu's alto sax is also telling here, the work of another musician with his own thing going on. "Remy's Revenge" takes things a little further in the best possible way, the music coming together in a way that nails the groove and compelling solos. Wilkes is all over his horn on this one, seemingly gambolling in the wide open spaces like a man who's undergone some form of rebirth.
"Searchin'" pulls off the not inconsiderable feat of sounding both contemporary and creative, and it might well be telling that Baratz joins Wilkes in the front line again. There's something quietly compelling about the way their respective sounds seem to merge, and the intimacy of their unisons is a thing in itself. Robert "Baabe" Irving III's piano on this one is compellingly sparse and it has the pleasingly odd effect of lending the music greater depth than it might otherwise have possessed.
There is however the impression of too much ground being covered here, though that could be down to nothing more pressing than "first album syndrome." Certainly the impression abides that Wilkes is a man with an infinite future in terms of where he chooses to go next, and in skillfully avoiding the hype. So far he's already proved himself adept at valuing the music far more than the marketing. In times like these that's no small achievement.
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 was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.