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Even with the reissue boon that has resulted in so much obscure music seeing the light of day, certain artists have not fared well when it comes to the availability of their work. Dick Bock’s Pacific Jazz imprimatur falls under the Blue Note/Capitol umbrella, but past reissues have seemed to focus on “cool school” items with sets from Chet Baker, Bud Shank, and Bill Perkins being the norm. Hard bop artists such as Curtis Amy, Paul Bryant, Frank Butler, The Jazz Crusaders, Charles Kynard and Gerald Wilson have been much less represented in the entire scheme of things. In Wilson’s case, out of the ten albums he made during his stay with Pacific Jazz, only two have ever been reissued on CD in the United States. This sad state of affairs is certainly put right with Mosaic’s new packaging of the entire output of Wilson’s Pacific Jazz sides as a leader, although the terrific sessions he arranged for Les McCann and Carmel Jones are not included here and will hopefully see their own reissue at some later date.
With experience as an arranger for Jimmy Lunceford behind him, gifted writer and bandleader Gerald Wilson set up his own big band in 1944 and has actively maintained an ensemble of some kind or another ever since. By the time he hooked up with Dick Bock and Pacific Jazz in 1961, Wilson had already become one of the most distinguished composers and arrangers of his era. Unfortunately, the mere fact that he resided on the West Coast meant that he was not as well known to record buyers of the time as Count Basie or Duke Ellington. You Better Believe It is notable for the appearance of organist Groove Holmes, soon to become a major seller for Pacific Jazz in his own right. “The Wailer” and “Blues For Yna Yna” are particularly choice on this memorable maiden voyage.
The first of many tributes to matadors (bull fighting being one of Wilson’s favorite pastimes), “Viva Tirado” makes its appearance on Moment of Truth. The homage scheme reaches its ultimate fruition on Portraits, with pieces dedicated to matador Paco Camino, master musician Ravi Shankar, composer Aram Khachaturian, and jazz great Eric Dolphy. Soloists Joe Pass, Teddy Edwards, and Jack Wilson play prominent roles in all three of these aforementioned quintessential albums.
Giving a jazzy update to pop material of the day was not uncommon during the ‘60s. Duke Ellington, of course, made an entire album of his own version of the score from “Mary Poppins.” Wilson was also ingenious enough to handle such challenging assignments, although the closest he ever got to an entire album of pop-inflected material was on Feelin’ Kinda Blues. Even here though, Wilson’s integrity as an arranger comes shining through on such unlikely numbers as the Beatles’ “Yesterday” and James Browns’ “I Feel Good.”
The Golden Sword, from 1966, is one of the best Wilson albums of the entire Pacific Jazz lot and it features the “Latin tinge” that Jelly Roll Morton often spoke of, with bullfighting and Mexican motifs also exploited to their fullest. “Carlos” is another tribute to a bullfighter, in this case being Carlos Arruza. Other highly attractive pieces include “Blues Latinese” and “The Feather.” Never content to stay too long in one area however, it was back to more traditional forms for the next set which documented a few evenings from the bands’ stay at Marty’s On The Hill in Los Angeles. Trumpeter Charles Tolliver, a truly inventive talent who has yet to receive his dues, makes his debut with the band on this occasion and his own early masterpiece, “The Paper Man,” is part of the program.
The final threesome of Wilson albums for Pacific Jazz ( Everywhere, California Soul, and Eternal Equinox ) carries us through to the end of the ‘60s. Occasional pop material figured into the mix, such as “Light My Fire,” “Aquarius,” and “Sunshine of You Love,” yet Wilson’s ability to transcend material (Oliver Nelson was another genius in this department) insures that each of these albums has more than enough valuable music to make for an easy recommendation. In short, the entire body of work as presented in this collection is worthy of rediscovery, not just those known entities. In addition, prominent artists to play a part in these closing sets include Bobby Hutcherson, Roy Ayers, Bud Shank, and Anthony Ortega
For devoted Mosaic followers the usual packaging remains constant; a 12 x 12 box houses the five compact discs and a 20-page booklet. In addition to a complete discography and session-by-session annotation by writer Doug Ramsey, there are a wealth of photos from such photographers as Ray Avery, Woody Woodward, and Francis Wolff. Limited to 5000 copies worldwide, all recordings are available solely through Mosaic Records, 35 Melrose Place, Stamford, CT 06902; (203) 327-7111. Check their web site at www.mosaicrecords.com for more information or to place an order.
Track Listing: DISC ONE Blues For Yna Yna, Jeri, Moody Blue, Straight Up And Down, The Wailer, You Better Believe It, Yvette, Viva Tirado, Moment Of Truth, Patterns, Teri, Nancy Jo, Milestones, Latino, Josefina, Emerge
DISC TWO So What, Caprichos, Paco, Ravi, Aram, 'Round Midnight, Eric, Los Moros De Espana, Who Can I Turn To, Ricardo, Musette, In The Limelight, Lighthouse Blues, El Viti, Lately, Perdido
DISC THREE When I'm Feeling Kinda Blue, Freddie Freeloader, Do Anything You Wanna, Yesterday, Watermelon Man, Yeh Yeh, One On The House, I Got You (I Feel Good), I Concentrate On You, Well Son Shuffle, The Golden Sword, Man Of La Mancha, The Breeze And I, Carlos, Chanson Du Feu Follet (Song Of The Mad Fire), Mi Corazon, Blues Latinese, The Feather, La Mentira (The Lie), The Serpent
DISC FOUR Paper Man, I Should Care, I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good), The "IT's" Where It's At, Blues For A Scorpio, L'il Darlin', Misty, Viva Tirado, Everywhere, Out Of This World, Pretty Polly, M. Capetillo, Little Bit Of Soul, Do I Love You (Because You're Beautiful?), Del Olivar, Mini Waltz
DISC FIVE California Soul, Light My Fire, Channel Island, Lullaby From Rosemary's Baby, Sunshine Of Your Love, Russian River, Yesterlove, Down Here On The Ground, El Presidente, Equinox, Aquarius, Pisces, Scorpio Rising, Celestial Soul, Baby, Baby Don't Cry, You, Me And Now, Bluesnee
Personnel: Gerald Wilson (arranger), key soloists include Carmell Jones, Bud Shank, Harold Land, Bobby Hutcherson, Roy Ayers, Richard
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.