One of the paragons of the "Texas tenor" style, Don Wilkerson gained his greatest notoriety as a soloist with Ray Charles throughout much of the 50s and 60s. Less known is Wilkerson’s limited work as a leader, the majority of which is collected on this two-disc package from Blue Note. Wilkerson made three albums for the label during the fruitful years of 1962 and 1963: Preach Brother!
, Elder Don,
All three records feature guitarist Grant Green, who certainly knows how to cook in such a setting. The first also boasts a classic Blue Note rhythm section: Sonny Clark on piano, Butch Warren on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums, with Jual Curtis sitting in on tambourine on "Dem Tambourines" and "Camp Meetin’." On the second album, Johnny Acea takes over on piano, with Lloyd Trotman on bass and Willie Bobo on drums. The last of the three sessions is particularly down and dirty, with Green, John Patton on organ and Ben Dixon on drums.
The prevailing ethos of Preach Brother!
is simply summarized: blues, blues, and more blues. And not the fancied-up bebop variety, but straight-up shuffle and boogie and soul. Every track is a blues except for the closer, "Pigeon Peas," a funky thing in AABA form. The two later albums are a bit more compositionally varied. Wilkerson begins Elder Don
with exquisitely singing tenor work on "Senorita Eula" and then salutes his fellow Texan Bob Wills with "San Antonio Rose." (Grant Green’s solo on the latter has to be heard to be believed.) From this point on there’s still plenty of blues, but Wilkerson breaks it up with originals like "Scrappy" and "Drawin’ a Tip." He also showcases a totally different aspect of his talent on the ballads "Poor Butterfly" and "Easy Living."