In My Time, the new release from the Gerald Wilson Orchestra, is a different kind of big band album. It is more than simply music - it is genius personified. But one could hardly expect less from one of the senior representatives of jazz. Gerald Wilson is about as ‘old school’ as old school gets, and yet is still growing and learning as a composer, arranger, performer and educator.
It was 1939 when Wilson joined the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra as a trumpet soloist and arranger, and 66 years later he is still very active and very much at the top of his game. Through the years he has received an incredible amount of acclaim - winning Downbeat International Critics Polls as well as the Paul Robeson Award, the NEA American Jazz Masters Fellowship, a pair of American Jazz awards and several Grammy nominations. He has worked with everybody that was anybody in jazz - Benny Carter, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughn, Ray Charles, Carmen McRae, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson and the list goes on and on. Not content to restrict his movements to the jazz world, he’s also done a lot of commercial and symphonic work. So at almost 87 years old, you would think he might be slowing down a bit, but thankfully for us nothing could be further from the truth.
On this new album, the follow up to the Grammy-nominated New York, New Sound, Wilson has gathered together some of the best jazz musicians playing today to produce a monumental recording. This album of 10 tracks is centered around three selections, collectively called "The Diminished Triangle." It is from a piece commissioned by the California Institute for the Preservation of Jazz and supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts that was debuted at Cal State L.A. on April 2, 2005. As Wilson explains it, "’The Diminished Triangle’ is the study of diminished chords. We have three diminished chords which add up to 12 different notes, and all musicians study the 12 tones. By using the diminished triangle many different ways, one can get a lot of different harmonic sounds. This suite gave me the opportunity to use a lot of eight-part harmony." If you’re not a musician, that might all sound like Greek to you, but the end result is very beautiful, very exciting music.
The list of young lions and revered veterans that make up this fantastic orchestra include Jon Faddis, Frank Greene, Jimmy Owens, Jeremy Pelt, Eddie Henderson, Mike Rodriguez and Sean Jones on trumpet, Benny Powell, Dennis Wilson, Douglas Purviance and Luis Bonilla on trombone, Kamasi Washington, Gary Smulyan, Ron Blake, Steve Wilson, Jerry Dodgion and Dustin Cicero on saxophones and flutes, Russell Malone on guitar, Lewis Nash on drums, Peter Washington on bass and Renee Rosnes on piano, with Wilson filling the conductor and arranger chair. All of the compositions are Wilson’s except for two standards - "Love For Sale" and "So What."
Not only are the arrangements lush and compelling complex, but the solos are full of pyrotechnic thrills, deep rhythmic swing and heart-felt poignancy. This is the level of achievement that all big bands should aspire to. Summing up his thoughts on this latest project, Wilson says, "I’ve listened to ‘In My Time’ several times and, honestly, this might be the best record I’ve ever made. The intonation of the musicians is so good, the musicians interpreted the music so well, and they are great young players who are looking ahead, moving the banner of jazz into the future." I couldn’t have said it better myself.