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The great West Coast arranger Gerald Wilson has taken the charts from some of his most popular recordings, brought them to New York, and recorded with a band made up of many widely respected musicians. The result is New York, New Sound on Stix Hooper's Mack Avenue label.
There is good and bad news here. The good news is that the album is terrific. Many jazz fans will be introduced to Wilson's talent through this album, and will seek more. No doubt Gerald Wilson will be in demand because of this album. The bad news is that the New Sound of New York isn't as good as the old sound of Los Angeles to this listener's ears.
Wilson's most popular albums were recorded for Pacific Jazz in the '60s. Today none of those albums are available except the parts of Mosaic's Complete Pacific Jazz Recordings box. Pacific Jazz's 1978 Best of compilation (PJ-LA889-H) includes the original recordings of "Blues For Yna Yna," Miles Davis's "Milestones," "Viva Tirado," and John Coltrane's "Equinox." In every case, the original is better than the new version.
The New York sound is not as smooth and polished as the Los Angeles sessions. The solos here have an edge that is not found in the originals. That won't matter to anyone who has not heard the originals, but I prefer what is not here, and I suspect I am not alone. There are no bad tracks to be found here. The four songs mentioned above stand out, as does the 1990s melody "Theme From Monterey." Notable soloists include pianist Kenny Barron, tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath, trumpeter Clark Terry, and pianist Renee Rosnes.
So give Gerald Wilson full marks for the courage to take on some of his best work and give it a new visage. Since the originals are out of print, this collection is welcome.
Track Listing: 1. Milestones
2. Blues for the Count
4. Viva Tirado (Mucho Mas)
6. Blues for Yna Yna
7. Theme for Monterey:
8. M Capetillo
10. Nancy Jo
Personnel: The New York Gerald Wilson Orchestra.
Trumpets: Clark Terry - Fluegelhorn & Trumpet (track 2)/Trumpet (track 6), Jon Faddis - (tracks 1, 2,
5, 6, 8, 9 and 10), Jimmy Owens, Eddie Henderson, Frank Greene - (tracks 3, 4 and 7), Sean Jones.
Trombones: Benny Powell, Luis Bonilla, Dennis Wilson, Douglas Purviance.
Reeds/Saxophones: Jimmy Heath - Tenor Sax, Frank Wess - Tenor Sax (all tracks)/Flute (track 2),
Jesse Davis - Alto Sax, Jerry Dodgion - Alto Sax (all tracks)/Flute (tracks 2 and 8), Jay Brandford -
Piano: Kenny Barron - (tracks 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10), Renee Rosnes - (tracks 3, 4 and 7).
Guitar: Anthony Wilson, Oscar Castro-Neves (track 8).
Bass: Larry Ridley - (tracks 1, 4, 6, 8 and 10), Trey Henry - (tracks 5, 7 [Romance] and 9), Bob
Cranshaw - (tracks 2, 3 and 6).
Drums: Lewis Nash - (tracks 1, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10), Stix Hooper -(tracks 2, 3, 4 and 7).
Percussion: Lenny Castro -(tracks 4 and 8).
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.