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There is a new style of jazz composition emerging, one which seeks to combine the melodic hooks and sonic ambiance of such pop artists as Radiohead and Björk with the harmonic and rhythmic imperatives of jazz. This approach can be heard in the work of such younger artists as Steve Cardenas, Eli Degibri, and Rob Wilkerson, the leader of this unique and imaginative recording.
In the booklet notes, Wilkerson states that he seeks to use melody and color in his music to take the listener "to a place." And on Imaginary Landscape, he succeeds admirably, creating an atmospheric and at times almost otherwordly sound.
Wilkerson's alto saxophone, with its full, rounded tone, somewhat recalls Benny Carter at his most melodious. His improvising is pensive, avoiding the knotty phrasing of bebop, even on the full-out swinging of "For Walt." The sidemen offer sensitive and appropriate support. Chandler's organ is full and resonant in both his accompaniment and his solos. Thomas effectively holds the bottom, while Campbell deftly juggles the rhythms, providing a snaky hip hop jump on "Rabp Dance" and a swaggering 5/4 swing to a soaring rendition of Charlie Parker's "Confirmation." But it's tenor saxophonist Chris Cheek who adds the final touch to this album. He plays with a firm tone and a delightful imagination, capturing the mood and intention of Wilkerson's music.
It's often been said that jazz musicians should strive for something personal, something new, for a music rooted in the tradition but that speaks of today, a music of these times. With Imaginary Landscape, Rob Wilkerson speaks to our times. His music is personal, profound, and thoroughly refreshing. And highly recommended.