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Steve Wilson: Generations

Jim Santella By

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Alto saxophonist Steve Wilson’s modern mainstream quartet spans generations with respect to career accomplishments, but the music is timeless. Sixty-five year old drummer Ben Riley came up in the 1950s and ‘60s with Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. Fifty-one year old bassist Ray Drummond came up in the 1970s and ‘80s with Freddie Hubbard and Bobby Hutcherson. Forty-three year old pianist Mulgrew Miller came up in the 1980s with Art Blakey, while thirty-seven year old saxophonist Steve Wilson came up in the 1990s with Renee Rosnes, Louie Bellson, the Mingus Big Band, and others. On his 5th album as a leader Wilson shows a lovely tone and manner on alto; he also plays soprano sax on three tracks and flute on "Wait." After attending Virginia Commonwealth University on an oboe scholarship, the saxophonist worked with Blue Note’s OTB (Out Of The Blue sextet) and studied with several of jazz’s legendary masters before expanding his busy career.

Wilson’s "Trapaceria" is a modern mainstream piece with fiery Latin rhythms and carnaval melodies. Doubling of the piano and alto saxophone voices in places increases the drama, to contrast with the composition’s playful attitude. Wilson’s "A Joyful Noise" is a pleasant waltz that features his soprano sax winding its way through the melody with a stamina that recalls John Coltrane’s "My Favorite Things." Miller’s "Small Portion" is a lively up-tempo romp that features each of the quartet’s members in expressive solo encounters. The pianist’s solo portion is especially refreshing. Miller’s blues-tinged keyboard work contains crisp energetic phrasing over a powerful rhythmic left-hand foundation. Drummond’s "Leanin’ & Preenin’ " is a dramatic piece with a loose, swinging feel to it. While remaining heavy at the bottom, the number struts a cocky rhythm over which Wilson and Miller swing in turn. Billy Strayhorn’s "Chelsea Bridge" moves along, bolero-like, to a fascinating drum and pizzicato bass pattern that supports its familiar soaring alto saxophone melody. The classic "Sweet and Lovely" is performed light and bouncy, but with a melodic twist; it’s the session’s highlight. As with all good music, Wilson’s album bridges the generation gap and offers arrangements of substance that will last for an eternity.


Track Listing: Small Portion; A Joyful Noise (for JW); Sisko; Leanin' & Preenin'; Chrysalis; Sweet and Lovely; Wait; Trapacer

Personnel: Steve Wilson: alto and soprano saxophones, flute; Mulgrew Miller: piano; Ray Drummond: bass; Ben Riley: drums.

Title: Generations | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Concord Music Group

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