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Steve Wilson: Passages

Jim Santella By

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With a straight-ahead ensemble playing mostly his own compositions, Steve Wilson moves between straight-ahead jazz and the more involved modern mainstream in groups of two, three, four and five. There’s something special added to each arrangement to make it unique. On "Eye of the Beholder," for instance, Wilson weaves in and out of modal harmonic situations while his supporting piano trio plays it straight. Steel pans are added for a unique melodic effect. "Q-B-Rab" struts with a super-confident New Orleans shuffle while unexpected dissonant chords punctuate the affair. Payton and Wilson trade fours with considerable thought given to free expression. Change-up after change-up keeps the piece unpredictable while piano, bass and drums ensure that the shuffle feeling remains solid. For "Passages" Wilson performs a heartfelt ballad duet with Bruce Barth. They lament the recent losses of Joe Williams, Lester Bowie, Charlie Byrd, Nat Adderley, Gene Harris, Grover Washington, Jr. and others. It takes an eclectic composer to honor the different styles of these heroes, and Wilson shoulders the task quite well. From blues moans to soaring melodies and quiet, chromatic saxophone key pad taps, the leader’s planning serves their memories well. Wilson’s overtone-rich tone sweetens the project’s impression, particularly on soprano and flute. Highly recommended, Steve Wilson’s latest album drives straight ahead with tradition in his sights and lush scenery on the side.

Track Listing: Turnin

Personnel: Steve Wilson: alto and soprano saxophones, flute and alto flute, percussion; Nicholas Payton: trumpet (1, 4, 6); Bruce Barth: piano & Fender Rhodes; Ed Howard: bass, Adam Cruz: drums and percussion.

Title: Passages | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Concord Music Group

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