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Tony Williams: Wilderness

Jim Santella By

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A full orchestra joins Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny and Stanley Clarke in this collection of tone poems that compare and contrast several takes on the meaning of wilderness. The leader provides a glimpse of the moods being portrayed through his choice of titles, as well as by supplying in the liner notes several familiar quotations about mankind and the natural world. Drummer Williams, who led the fusion band Lifetime in decades past, opts to contrast the natural sounds of an orchestra with the electronic sounds from keyboard synthesizers, electric bass, and electric guitar. Three distinct thoughts on wilderness present themselves through the musical moods being portrayed. The full orchestra, with its natural sounds, supplies pastoral scenes of the outdoors. The fusion quintet, through its "China Town" trilogy, expresses the brash rhythmic attitude of city life. Several pieces are special in that they employ thoughtful and soulful improvisation, which of course comes from that other wilderness lying deep within the mind.

"The Night You Were Born" features Michael Brecker with a challenging tenor sax outing that shows off his technique and deep, ringing tone. Hancock on piano and Metheny on guitar blend to produce an image of some smoky dance hall late at night with only a few customers left standing around. Hancock stretches out in "Gambia" to share his unique mix of energetic and blues-based piano stylings; Metheny follows that with some of his delicate and fluid solo guitar work. Finally, "Cape Wilderness" sums it all up with fine solo work and group interplay from the quintet. Recommended.

Title: Wilderness | Year Released: 1997 | Record Label: ARK

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