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Guitarist Anthony Wilson, whose debut was nominated last year for a Grammy Award, has neatly sidestepped the sophomore jinx on his latest release for the MAMA Foundation thanks to his creative writing and steadfast support from his New York-based sidemen. This one's in a somewhat funkier groove than Wilson's earlier effort with pianist Mike LeDonne playing Hammond B-3 on two selections ("W-2 Blues," Tadd Dameron's "Flossie Lou") and guest Bennie Wallace squealing like a disconcerted Texas tenor on "Stairway to the Stars" and his own composition, "It Has Happened to Me." When it comes to age, the 30-year-old Wilson is an equal-opportunity employer, blending old hands (Wallace, Art Baron, Jerry Dodgion, Ted Nash, Joe Temperley) and fresh young faces (LeDonne, John D'Earth, Danton Ballard, Jeff Bollard) in a consistently appetizing banquet for the ears. As befits the son of bandleader Gerald Wilson, Anthony is an accomplished songwriter, and each of his compositions for this session - "W-2 Blues," "The Cherry Tree," "Georgia Waltz" and "Hell's Belles" - is substantive and appealing. HIs arrangements also shimmer, especially the interesting treatment of "Here's That Rainy Day" whose melody is developed almost in fragments by the ensemble as Wilson and Nash (on tenor) solo and Ballard offers an Astaire-like "soft-shoe routine" with brushes. "Blues," which opens the set, includes straight-ahead picking by Wilson, Baron's assertive trombone solo and nice open trumpet by D'Earth. "Cherry Tree" is a melodic medium-tempo swinger that features Wilson, LeDonne and D'Earth again. "Georgia," which begins and ends as a waltz and shifts to straight 4/4 in midflight for fast-paced solos by Wilson and Nash (on alto), precedes the tango "Hell's Belles," which must have greatly pleased Anthony's dad, no slouch himself when it comes to writing in a Latin vein. Baron's muted trombone states the melody, and Wilson plays flamenco guitar before he and Baron solo in a more conventional mode. "Flossie Lou" is yet another highlight, its catchy bop-based tune punctuated by admirable solo work from Temperley (who sounds as though he may have been having a minor reed problem), LeDonne at the B-3, Wilson and Nash, this time on clarinet (where he might give even Buddy DeFranco a run for his money). While I mean no offense, I do find Wallace's note-hopping, over-the-top style singularly unappealing - although he fares marginally better on the ballad, "Stairway to the Stars" (in a sort of Lew Tabackin-like reading) than on "It Has Happened." Others, however, may consider Wallace's appearances an impassioned focal point. In either case, Goat Hill Junket, named for the block in Manhattan where young Wilson lived in the early '90s, is a clear winner, showing that sometimes you can indeed go home again to seize the palm.
W-2 Blues; Here's That Rainy Day; The Cherry Tree; It Has Happened to Me; Georgia Waltz; Hell's Belles; Flossie Lou; Stairway to the Stars (64:04).
Anthony Wilson, guitar; John D'Earth, trumpet; Art Baron, trombone; Jerry Dodgion, Ted Nash, Joe Temperley, reeds; Mike LeDonne, piano, B-3 organ; Danton Boller, bass; Jeff Ballard, drums; guest artist Bennie Wallace, tenor sax ("Stairway to the Stars," "It Has Happened to Me").
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.