Monday, October 03, 2011

Gerald Wilson - NYC Jazz Record

Gerald Wilson - Legacy

In regards to jazz textbooks, Gerald Wilson used to tell
his students, “If I’m not in it, it’s not worth buying.”
That may be boastful but it is also entirely true. Since
the late ‘30s Gerald Wilson has played, written,
arranged and conducted with some of the most
important large ensembles in jazz, from Jimmie
Lunceford to Dizzy Gillespie to Ray Charles but he has
kept some of his best material for his own orchestra.

At 92 years old Wilson is a living legend who
practically defines the sound of West Coast big band.
He could easily rest on those accolades. Instead Wilson
has released Legacy, his fifth album of original material
since turning 80. The title is an apt one but Dynasty
might be even better considering the performance and
composing contributions from Wilson’s son Anthony
and grandson Eric Otis. Armed with some of the best
session musicians from both coasts (drummer Lewis
Nash, bassist Peter Washington, saxophonist Antonio
Hart), Wilson presents a set of lush compositions that
manages to address everyone from Claude Debussy
(“Variations On Clair De Lune”) to Michael Jordan
(“Cubs, Bears, Bulls and White Sox” from his 15 minute
suite dedicated to Chicago). The album opens with
Wilson’s tribute to Stravinsky by way of Ian Fleming,
injecting a brassy swing into a “Firebird” theme to
pleasant effect. Anthony Wilson’s contribution,
“Virgo”, features meditative small combo interplay
with nice unison lines between pianist Renee Rosnes
and Anthony’s guitar while Otis’ “September Sky” fits
in with the rest of the family, sensuously gliding
through a series of descending phrases.

The second half of the album “Yes Chicago Is...” is
a set of short movements that gives the horn players a
little room to shine before returning to Wilson’s dense
cloud of brass and swing. Wilson’s graceful homage to
the Windy City is a concise display of his great writing
and bandleading talents, with punctual brass and
imaginative progressions immaculately executed by an
allstar orchestra. It is always a pleasure to hear Gerald
Wilson at work. His passion seeps from every note and
this new album only further solidifies his status.

Gerald Wilson @ NYC Jazz Record

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